“In the war against terrorists, forget about morality.”
The Act of Killing and The Gatekeepers have a lot in common. The Gatekeepers doesn’t have the surreal style of Oppenheimer’s film. Its presentation is traditional: talking heads, stock footage, computer animation. The titular “gatekeepers” are six ex-leaders of the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet; men who oversaw Israel’s fight against terrorism. A fight waged with torture, with one-ton bombs and difficult decisions.
When one gatekeeper discusses their lengthy wanted list – “You can’t throw a rock without hitting a cat or a terrorist” – the parallels between these men and Indonesia’s hunt for “communists” are clear. Just as in The Act of Killing, the interviewees speak frankly about their experiences. Some are unapologetic, seeing their actions as necessary to preserve Israeli lives. “I didn’t want any more live terrorists in court,” one explains, matter-of-factly, justifying brutal murders in custody. Others are more circumspect, burdened by decisions that led to innocent deaths. “When you retire, you become a bit of leftist.”
The Gatekeepers’s unadorned presentation suits its subject matter, the brutal honesty with which men recount their role within complex, controversial history. It is a straightforward film, but no less effective for its simplicity.