Welcome to Both Sides of the Conflicted Coin

All right…I have to admit it, I’m not particularly politically minded, educated, or involved. I tend to happily drift in the middle to left of the equation and not take sides.  Call me a coward, call me a pacifist, I prefer to think of it as ‘my burden of open-mindedness’. This is perhaps why I enjoyed the documentary feature ‘The Gatekeeper’s’ so much.  It presented both sides of the story.  And as illustrated by the interviews, archival photos, re-capturing and re-imaging of evidence about Israel-Palestinian history, we see that one man’s terrorist is indeed another mans freedom fighter.

The film revolves around exclusive interviews with members and leaders of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service. We the audience, are privy to everything these men have to share, from denial to regret to their admitted questioning of duty. These former and present leaders have never before spoken publicly about their work, which is what makes the film so intriguing. Their interviews are sometimes shockingly candid, as one of the leaders talks about how it feels unnatural to have that amount of power over a human life. We see real footage of bombings, death, tragedy, and indecision.  We are shown suffering throughout the Gaza Strip, and are left to think for ourselves on whether there is in fact a right and a wrong side to take.

The film covers the span of subjects from Jewish terrorism and assassination, the morality of torture, Palestinian negotiations, to the history and current situation of the Shin Bet. The tone is solemn and contemplative. The footage uses an impressive, 3D-like technique of bringing us inside a photo to explore crime scenes and evidence. This striking imaging was used to illustrate the famous hijacking of the 300 bus and the following execution of two terrorists, the scandal of which led to the resignation of one of the Shin Bet leaders.

As I have stated, I’m nowhere near close to being an expert on this subject, but I do believe in the importance of presenting all issues in an argument, political or otherwise. One might this would make for a boring, conflict-free film, but on the contrary, there are so many substantiated issues that oppose one another, we are left with a heavy load of morality to weigh. ‘The Gatekeepers’ executes this struggle incredibly well, leaving one with a sense of utter confusion and deadlock for the subject matter, but a much deeper understanding for the sense of personal humanity.  We get to see these powerful leaders and speakers, some may say villains, as simply men, with their many frailties and fears, and I believe that levels the playing field as much as any evidence could.

The Gatekeepers has been touted by The New York Times and Wall Street Journal as one of the best films of 2012 and has won numerous festival and critics choice awards. It opens March 1st, 2013 at Fifth Avenue Cinemas. (It is in Hebrew with English subtitles.)