Director Dror Moreh’s The Gatekeepers unveils the fascinating inner workings of the Shin Bet, the Israeli Security Agency. Moreh’s documentary focuses on six former heads of the organisation, complementing his interviews with photographs, archival footage and visually stimulating animation.
It’s always easy to see the leaders of any military organisation as ‘the enemy’, the men who control the machine. However, The Gatekeepers shows that they are real men with real fears, who have been placed in an unenviable situation. They were often faced with making split second choices and the interview subjects often agree that they didn’t often make the best decisions.
The most interesting interview subject is Avraham Shalom, who was forced to resign from his position following the death of two Palestinian prisoners in the aftermath of a bus hijacking in 1984. Shalom flits between doddering old man to ruthless military leader, showing the complexity of dealing with such situations. He clearly doesn’t want to talk about the controversial incident, stating that he doesn’t remember the details, but he’s soon drawn into a discussion about morals and terrorism.
You could argue that Moreh’s documentary is biased, letting the leaders of the Shin Bet have their say, without hearing from those who were at the brunt of their force. However, they do appear to be self-critical, clearly understanding that they were in a no-win situation. Having said that, the lack of scope in interviewee does make The Gatekeepers feel less essential, at the back of your mind you know that you’re hearing a biased re-telling of events.
The Gatekeepers is an interesting documentary which is definitely worth your time, but it’s always worth remembering that a story always has two sides.