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The Gatekeepers

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Nobody has lukewarm opinions about Israeli defense policies. Which means there's plenty of potential audience for Dror Moreh's Oscar-nominated The Gatekeepers, which assembles all surviving heads of the Shin Bet (Israeli Secret Service) and gets down and dirty about social and territorial policy.

The result is historic and unprecedented, a film both matter-of-fact and willing to ask incredibly difficult questions of men who, for better or worse, took part in shaping the way Israel deals with itself and with others. (It's hindered at first by a weird stylistic dependency on exploring the space in and around photographs through CG reconstructions. The effect feels distractingly like Panic Room–era David Fincher.) These people are fascinating for having helped change the operations of a nation, a process (including the metabolism of its aftermath) that changed them as human beings and as representatives of a system inspiring fierce global debates.

At times, the avalanche of socially conscious documentaries can overwhelm the casual viewer. There seem to be so many, and the ones not distinguished by substance, technique or cinematic flair start to run together. The Gatekeepers isn't part of that blur. It's essential viewing for anyone with a strong point of view about the divide between Israelis and Palestinians. Beyond that, it serves as a fascinating example of how process and bureaucracy can preserve humanity — or annihilate it.

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