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The Gatekeepers Blu-ray ReviewBlu-ray Sony Pictures
- Studio: Sony
- Distributed By: N/A
- Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Audio: Other
- Subtitles: English SDH, French
- Rating: PG-13
- Run Time: 1 Hr. 41 Min.
- Package Includes: Blu-ray
- Case Type:
- Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
- Region: A
- Release Date: 07/09/2013
- MSRP: $35.99
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
The tragedy of Israel's public security debate is that we don't realize that we face a frustrating situation in which we win every battle, but we lose the war. - Ami Ayalon, head of Israel's Shin Bet, 1996-2000
One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. - Yuval Diskin, head of Israel's Shin Bet, 2005-2011
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) is Israel's internal security agency. One might say that it is roughly the equivalent of our Department of Homeland Security, tasked with identifying and thwarting terrorists who wish to do harm to Israelis. In this Academy Award-nominated documentary by Israeli director Dror Moreh, the members of Shin Bet are The Gatekeepers of the title. Six former heads of Shin Bet agreed to sit down and be interviewed for the film, which somewhat surprisingly reveals that all six believe that their country's policies toward the Palestinians have been misguided and counter-productive. They do not excuse Palestinian terrorism - indeed, they devoted their professional lives to capturing and killing terrorists - but they make the case that the situation in Israel is far from black and white.
The Gatekeepers traces the history of the Israel-Palestinian conflict from the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel's Army and Air Force routed the combined military might of the United Arab Republic (Egypt), Jordan and Syria in breathtakingly short time. As a result, Israel took control of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria, placing more than one million Palestinians under Israeli rule. Shin Bet was given the responsibility of running Israel's intelligence operations in the West Bank and Gaza.
The six former heads of Shin Bet are Yuval Diskin, Avraham Shalom, Avi Dichter, Yaacov Peri, Carmi Gillon, and Ami Ayalon. Apparently these men had never agreed to be interviewed before. One problem with Israel’s policies, according to Avraham Shalom, is that a succession of Israeli prime ministers never developed a long-term strategy for dealing with the Palestinians. "There was no strategy, just tactics," he says. The interviewees also raise concerns about the morality of some of the events which have occurred over the years. They talk about a passenger bus which was hijacked by four Palestinians in 1984. When the bus got near the border with Egypt, it was assaulted by Israeli forces who killed two of the hijackers during the assault and captured two others. The captured hijackers were then brutally beaten and executed on the spot. The executions resulted in both domestic and international outrage when photographs were released showing that the two hijackers were captured alive and well. Elsewhere the former Shin Bet leaders discuss the difficulties involved in deciding whether and when it is justifiable to bomb a populated area in an effort to take out a prominent terrorist.
There was hope that a peaceful resolution could be reached between Israel and the Palestinians with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, but Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was pilloried by Israel's right wing and then he was assassinated by an Israeli man in 1995. The failure to get the Oslo Accords implemented led to more rounds of violence.
One of the more sobering segments in The Gatekeepers occurs when Ami Ayalon recounts a discussion he had with a Palestinian doctor in London in 2002. "At some point," he relates, "I was making myself a cup of coffee and I was approached by a Palestinian acquaintance named Iyad Saraj, a Doctor of Psychiatry. He said, 'Ami, we finally defeated you.' I said to him, 'Are you mad? What do you mean, defeated us? Hundreds of you are getting killed. At this rate thousands of you will get killed. You are about to lose whatever tiny bit of a state you have and you'll lose your dream of statehood. What kind of victory is that?' He said to me, 'Ami, I don't understand you. You still don't understand us. For us, victory is seeing you suffer. That's all we want. The more we suffer, the more you'll suffer.'"
There is much, much more in The Gatekeepers, making this is a film which should be seen by anyone who is interested in the ongoing strife among Israel, the Palestinians, and Hamas. It is discouraging to see that none of the six former heads of Shin Bet appear to be very optimistic about the future. The Gatekeepers was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, losing to Searching for Sugar Man, another outstanding film which is available on Blu-ray.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The 1.78:1 1080p image is delivered via the AVC codec, and for the most part it looks very good. The interviews are supplemented with vintage black & white and color film clips taken over the course of the past 45 years. Those clips are in variable condition, of course, but all are watchable. The interview footage is crisp and clear, and the English subtitles are easy to read. English SDH and French subtitles also are available.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5The 5.1 DTS HD-MA soundtrack for The Gatekeepers is in Hebrew. Viewers who are fluent in Hebrew will appreciate the fact that the dialogue seems to be flawless throughout. A low-key but effective musical score helps to create an appropriate mood for each segment of the film. Background chatter during the scenes of aerial surveillance and bombing helps to give the film a sense of urgency and authenticity.
Special Features: 3/5A commentary track by director Dror Moreh helps to put everything in historical context and gives him an opportunity to expound upon details which could not be covered in the film. He is fluent in English, albeit with a slight accent.
The also is a Question & Answer session with the director which is moderated by Stephen Farber. It is in high definition and has a running time of 42 minutes. This session is conducted in English.
The theatrical trailer for The Gatekeepers is included, as well as previews of West of Memphis, The Company You Keep, At Any Price, Waltz with Bashir, The Fog of War, and Inside Job.