Since it first screened at film festivals in 2012, the Israeli documentary The Gatekeepers has collected a shelfful of awards, and an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, too. Every scroll and statue is deserved. The film, by seasoned cinematographer Dror Moreh, is a feat — of access and of passionate and appropriately unsettling political commentary. I don’t know how Moreh persuaded six former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet secret-service agency to talk to him; these are tough men who have never spoken about their work before. (During their tenures they were anonymous even to their fellow citizens.) But talk they do — calmly, authoritatively — about terrorism, torture, war, compromise, the relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, and, most depressingly, about the relationships among Israelis in a country being torn apart as much by citizens within as by enemies without. And what they have to say is unnerving, surprising, and vital.
Moreh credits the influence of Errol Morris’ exemplary documentary The Fog of War in shaping his approach to examining shifting ”truth.” Each of these gatekeepers (of their nation’s destiny? of secrecy?) experienced a different Israel under different circumstances. (Any world leader can say the same of his or her own country.) It’s the collective, pained urgency in their voices that makes this documentary not only an important work of filmmaking but also, just perhaps, of peacemaking as well. A