Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Israel/France/Germany/Belgium, 2012. Mac Guff Ligne, Cinephil, Dror Moreh Productions, Les Films du Poisson. Cinematography by Avner Shahaf. Produced by Estelle Fialon, Philippa Kowarsky, Dror Moreh. Production Design by Doron Koren. Film Editing by Oron Adar. Academy Awards 2012. National Board of Review Awards 2012. National Society of Film Critics Awards 2012. New York Film Critics Awards 2012. Toronto International Film Festival 2012.
The Six Day War of 1967 resulted in the formation of the Shin Bet, a counter-terrorism intelligence agency devoted to rooting out and dealing with enemies of the Israeli government who would do the population harm. Six of the organization’s former leaders sit down and describe their experiences to filmmaker Dror Moreh in this sober, quietly-paced but explosive documentary about various key points in the Shin Bet’s history: the assassination of Rabin, targeted killings of terrorist suspects with results both good and devastating, the planned (but thwarted) attempt by the Jewish Underground to blow up the Temple Mount, and the detention of suspects following a bus hijacking. The interview subjects, giving an unprecedented view into state secrets, do a wonderful job of candidly spelling out their track records with more than a little bit of regret, frequently describing the need for a new solution to an old problem: given that their enemies include fundamentalist Jews as well as Palestinian Arabs, is it possible that their way of working has not provided good results thus far? Where there was conflict, more than one of them says, there now needs to be discussion. Some will find expressions of culpability inflammatory, others will be moved, but either way the capturing of historical moments from the centre of the storm, which has no intention of pretending to know everything about solving the problems it presents, makes for highly engaging viewing.