Dir. Dror Moreh
(2012, PG-13, 95 minutes)

I have not kept well informed about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Those times I have learned about the crisis have saddened me or hurt my head – or both. (Steven Spielberg‘s Munich is probably the best film I’ve seen addressing the hostility.) Dror Moreh‘s documentary The Gatekeepers does an excellent job of organizing and examining decades of violence, retaliation, and mutual bitterness that have consumed the region since the Israeli state was established after World War II.

The film tells that story through the accounts of the surviving former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence agency. The director’s access to these men is remarkable. Their candor is even more so. What is most surprising about them is the nuance of their opinions. They are not hardened ideologues. They are critical of the politicians whose orders they’ve followed, express sympathy for Israelis and Palestinians alike, and though their opinions are not all the same – and their actions not always easily excused – we sense a worn-down pessimism that comes from years of seeing what the two peoples have done to each other. Their grim outlook is especially sober because these men seem to have no particular agenda or politics, just the wisdom of what they’ve seen, what they’ve done, and where they expect it to lead.

This film may prove to be of great international import, or perhaps I only think so because it’s new to me. Are these perspectives otherwise well documented? They are not easily digested or reconciled. These men have been responsible for grave decisions of questionable morality. Perhaps that is what allows them to speak with such authority about the uncertain future of their country: they have not only witnessed the sins on both sides, they’ve committed them too.