The Gatekeepers movie poster
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The Gatekeepers movie poster

The Gatekeepers Movie Review

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How in hell did The Gatekeepers not win Best Documentary Feature at this year's Academy Awards? Among a weak pool of candidates - and yes, that includes the overrated Searching for Sugar Man - The Gatekeepers stands apart, an important and gripping examination of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with six former heads of Shin Bet, Israeli's Secret Service.

With incredible honesty and reflection, the six men - Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri and Avraham Shalom - discuss the state of Israel from its inception to modern day, analyzing both the country's actions and their own. Things are always clearer in hindsight, especially when the fog of war comes into play, and the men practically conclude that the situation cannot be resolved by force.

Not exactly the conclusion you'd expect, unanimously, from the heads of an agency known for its strong-armed security procedures.

Directed by Dror Moreh, The Gatekeepers is a fascinating journey into the minds of these men, who have a better perspective than anyone on how Israel has become the country it is today and the consequences of those actions. With a mix of direct interviews and archived footage, the movie paints a surprisingly liberal picture of how things have gone so far awry.

The Gatekeepers is this year's The Fog of War, the Oscar-winning documentary from 2003 where former U.S. Secretary  of Defense Robert S. McNamara reflected on his actions and decisions.

While I know why The Gatekeepers didn't win - Oscar voters tend not to award documentaries about the Palestinian conflict - the  movie represents one of the most unique perspectives on the situation. Whereas most documentaries on the subject have a clear pro-Palestinian angle (the second best Oscar-nominated documentary this year was 5 Broken Cameras, about Israeli settlements), The Gatekeepers relays a similar message, but from the Israeli side. It's pretty fascinating.

Last year was not a great year for documentaries, but The Gatekeepers is an exception. The movie is now on DVD and Blu-ray.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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