Monday, February 25, 2013

A Quick Review of the "Gatekeepers"

If this is something that you are interested in reading about, you've probably heard all that you care to about "The Gatekeepers," the Israeli movie that didn't quite make the Oscar yesterday. I finally saw it this weekend and just had a few thoughts.

I had heard that it was very left-wing and had strong political messages, but came in with the attitude that okay they will express their opinions. That's to be expected. What I did not anticipate was just how obviously the filmmaker was working to get them to say what he wanted them to say, even after his remarks on the HuffPost. The most egregious example of this was when the director read a quote about how "the occupation" would corrode Israel's soul and asked the interviewee "what do you think about that?" Of course the interviewee is going to agree, because what else is he going to say, that everything is fine? And what does the morality of "the occupation" have to do with protecting Israelis from terrorism aka the head of the Shin Bet's job aka the supposed subject of the documentary?

It would be one thing if the movie was hearing the stories of the Shin Bet and their thoughts on the job. There wasn't nearly as many "war stories" as I was hoping, by which I mean I didn't learn that much about the way the Shin Bet operates and I didn't learn much more about the interviewees by the time it was over. It just did not seem to me that their political message was an authentic one, that it was very coached. The most clear example of this was when the older Shin Bet head said that Israel in the West Bank was like the Germans in World War II. Not in the way they treated the Jews, he is quick to clarify, but the way they treated the Poles and Czechs. One little problem: the way they treated the Poles and Czechs isn't anything like the way the Israelis treat the Palestinians. There aren't mass executions by firing squad, and Jews aren't the only people the Germans exterminated in large numbers. It was just a dumb thing to say and clearly only was placed in the movie because of its shock value.

This goes without saying that the Palestinians are not depicted as they are, which is unwilling to negotiate or make peace with Israel. The annoying part is that I did not go in with any preconceived notions, I was willing to be impressed with the movie. And I just...wasn't. It didn't really go anywhere and the political message was one that we've just heard too many times. For a supposed "first time interview" with six interesting people, it was pretty lackluster.

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