What does it mean to lead men in war? What does it mean to come home? Hell and Back Again is a cinematically revolutionary film that asks and answers these questions with a power and ... See full summary »
The Marines of Echo Company
Based on an interview of the director in one of the film festival showing that is is supposed to be a 5-part TV series intended to utilize the rest of the interview material. See more »
In the opening scene, the coordinates on satellite or UAV video feed are either in the East Pacific or the West Pacific depending on whether one takes the longitude to be East or West respectively. See more »
As Head of the Shin Bet, you learn that politicians prefer binary options. They don't like having three or four options. They want you to tell them "Zero or one. Do it. Don't do it." As a commander, I find myself in situations that are different shades of gray.
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You would normally bet that the chances of six former directors of the Israel Internal Security Service known as Shabak or, in English, Shin Bet becoming left-leaning proponents of a peaceful solution with the Palestinians would be about as likely as Dick Cheney becoming a political consultant for MSNBC. Yet, as depicted in Dror Moreh's powerful and disturbing documentary The Gatekeepers, this is exactly what happened. The film, one of five Oscar-nominated films for Best Documentary, consists of interviews by the director with Shin Bet spokesmen: Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon, Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, and Yuval Diskin, interspersed with newsreel footage and CGI graphical recreation of the seemingly endless conflict since 1967.
Moreh asks tough questions and does not let his subjects off the hook, but there is no need to. The men are forthcoming in their candid assessment of the role they played in the Shin Bet operations which included the recruitment and use of informers, the targeting and drone attacks on suspected terrorists (sound familiar?), use of brutal torture techniques, and controlling the threat of Jewish extremists, a threat that became reality when a right-wing opponent of the Oslo peace agreements shot and killed the architect of those agreements, Nobel Peace prize winner Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin.
Two horrific events are dramatized: the assassination of Palestinian terrorist Yahya Ayyash by planting an explosive device in his cell phone, and the skull bashing of two Palestinian terrorists involved in a bus hijacking after they had been subdued and captured, an action that led to the resignations by the Prime Minister and the then head of the Shin Bet. To their credit, however, the security agency called off dropping a bomb on a house filled with Hamas leaders because of the possibility of widespread collateral damage. The men were hardliners to begin with, but each, who has had to deal with the problem first-hand, has come to see the futility of an occupation that seems to lead only to an endless cycle of brutality on both sides.
They insist that continuing to talk with the Palestinians is the only option left and that anything else is a dead end street. Though they favor a two-state solution, they recognize that the opposition to dismantling the settlements might cause a civil war. If you are wondering how the six could have reached the same conclusions, Ami Ayalon tells us that "The six of us reached our opinions from different personal backgrounds and different political outlooks, but we've all reached the same conclusion. Many Israelis and American Jews want to deny it, but this is our professional opinion. We're at the edge of an abyss, and if Israeli-Palestinian peace doesn't progress, it's the end of Zionism." Though these men are patriots who believed they were doing the right thing for their country and still believe that a great number of Jewish lives were saved by their actions, they also acknowledge their struggle with the moral dimensions of the job, the thin line between taking a life and saving a life. Shalom's comments are telling, "We have become cruel to ourselves but mainly to the occupation," he says. "We paid a horrible price for our military successes. We are isolated completely from our neighbors, we cannot go anywhere. We are a thorn in the side of the region." According to Ayalon, "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." The Gatekeepers shows a side of the Israel-Palestinian conflict that we have not seen before and, considering the ultra-secret nature of the counter-terrorist organization, it is remarkable that Moreh was even able to conduct the interviews. Yet the impact of the film has yet to make much of a difference. In his speech prepared for delivery at the Oscars in event the film won the award for Best Documentary, Moreh said, "We pray that it (the film) will echo in the corridors of power in Washington, Berlin, Paris, London, and especially in Jerusalem and Ramallah." To this date, the only echo heard is the sound of doors being closed.
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