Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Gatekeepers (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Gatekeepers

"The Gatekeepers", an Academy Award nominee, is a recent documentary by Dror Moreh. It remains as upsetting as it is truthful, as disheartening as that may be.

The film focuses on the secret Israeli security operation Shin Bet that is essentially cloaked in shadow. Shin Bet consists of a group of men, concerned with locating and killing terrorists. Although most of the people and organizations that Shin Bet aggressively target are Palestinian, the group has gone after a militant Zionist  underground, which has been known to have assassinated former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

"The Gatekeepers " echoes the format of Errol Morris' "The Fog of War". The camera takes a head-on bullseye approach to each member of Shin Bet usually in a green-grey palate. At first glance these men might seem to be beloved grandfathers, particularly Avraham Shalom, who is a balding, soft spoken Santa-eyed man in red suspenders.

But these six men have deadly secrets.

Particularly disturbing is the fact that Mr. Shalom apparently covered up the secret killing of two terrorists during the hijacking of the 300 bus incident in 1982 when papers published photos of the terrorists being taken alive.
During the film director Moreh, puts the hard question of morality to his subject.

"Where is morality where terrorism is concerned? Counters Shalom. " I didn't want any more terrorists in court."

It is one of the film's several moments that are hard to swallow.
Interspersed with these chilling remarks which uncover no easeful thoughts for the future, are unique computer animations by the French based company Mac Guff, noted for their work on "Despicable Me" and "The Lorax". These animations which often terrorists cloaked in black, owe debts to "Sin City" (2005) and the video game "Call of Duty". Your eyes might be dismissive at first, but look again and the images become more intriguing, a cross between Diane Arbus or the life-size figures of Duane Hanson, or more abstractly, Rorschach blots of ink that soon coagulate in fear.

While at first these men might seem all too comfortable in their occupations with a camera that gives them a spacey Kubrickian glare at times, it becomes apparent that these men have made mistakes. They are human and  have indeed second guessed themselves. 

As Yuval Diskin admits, "It is often harder to do nothing."
Throughout the film, the Israeli Government clearly expects results, but horrifyingly, despite more successful targets, terrorism has only increased.
Avraham Shalom has the shocking last words:

"Israel is treating others like the ones did in World War II. Like what happened to the Dutch...the Czechs. I don't want to say it, so I won't but it is becoming... cruel."

Shalom goes on to say, "we should talk to everyone..terrorists... Ahmadinejad."

"The Gatekeepers" is not an easy film for illustrating the reality of violence and the eeriness of taking a life with the press of a button. But more importantly it highlights the imperative choice of peace. It is obvious in seeing the film that communication with terrorism is a must. To shut down dialogue  is to nod to annihilation.   

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