Once more the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has spoken and once more it’s been speaking right out of its well-upholstered posterior.
On 24th February 2013, as an audience numbering in the hundreds of millions watched around the world and Kelly Osbourne
critiqued the lovely dresses live on E! (the show as opposed to the popular dance culture love drug), the Academy chose not to honour Kirby Dick’s angry exposé of institutionalised sexual assault in the US military, The Invisible War.
It ignored Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s brave, defiant 5 Broken Cameras which charted one Palestinian West Bank family’s struggle under the harsh iniquities of violent Israeli occupation. And David France’s powerful How To Survive A Plague, charting the evolution of AIDS activist groups ACT UP and TAG and their fight to force the government and medical establishment to develop effective HIV treatments, may as well not even have existed for all the coverage it received.
As ever the Academy played it safe and awarded the Best Documentary Oscar to the least controversial, least important film; the bland, forgettable, Searching For Sugar Man, the feel good tale of a bland, forgotten musician finding out he’s big in South Africa. Meanwhile the film that deserved to win the Oscar, Dror Moreh’s revelatory, at times terrifying, film The Gatekeepers opens in the UK this week.
A fantastic, thought-provoking, at times genuinely chilling documentary, The Gatekeepers is brave enough to grapple head-on with Israel’s less than fairly matched conflict with Palestine, its role in the War on Terror and its legacy of state-sanctioned violence and murder.
Granted an unprecedented level of access to the six former heads of Israel’s internal counterterrorism agency, the Shin Bet, Moreh’s film examines the morality, ambivalence and frustrations of Israeli-Palestinian relationships through the experiences of the men charged with preserving the Jewish State; from Israel’s strife-torn creation in 1948 following the partition of Palestine, through the Six-Day War and the almost infinite problems caused by Israel’s lightning conquest of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Old Jerusalem to the present day’s battle against Arab suicide bombers and heavily armed Jewish Zionist extremists.
Normally, as they get older, people drift to the right, become more reactionary, less forgiving, crueler. They become entrenched, unbending, unforgiving. Not so Moreh’s subjects whose experiences at the sharp end of Israel’s dirty wars and their oppressive subjugation of the indigenous Palestinian population lead them to talk openly about the need for dialogue and a negotiated peace with the Palestinians.
Bleak and brave, The Gatekeepers is a spellbinding film that truly deserves President Woodrow
Wilson’s assessment of D.W. Griffiths’ The Birth Of A Nation; it writes history with lightening.