Dror Moreh’s Oscar-nominated documentary, opening 1 February in New York and LA, focuses on a particular period in Israel’s history, but it’s as topical and urgent a film as you’ll see this year. Astutely structured in part as a series of interviews with former members of Shin Bet intercut with images that can’t possibly mean only one thing, it considers how Israel’s decisions (official and not) following the Six Day War established attitudes, fears, and policies that shape tensions to this day. With a couple of reenactments set in a reimagined surveillance room—tapes recording, televisions monitoring, and computers whirring—the film suggests that advancing technologies and expanding violence didn’t make anyone safer, neither the occupying Israelis nor the occupied Palestinians. The conflict is fueled in part by access to oppressive machinery and weapons. Carmi Gillon (head of Shin Bet from 1994-1996) laments that—as in most every battle zone—decisions on the ground, when soldiers are “knocking on doors” of suspects and families, are left to boys who may have just left high school. Making these decisions “changes people’s character,” Shalom says, illustrated as he and other former heads remember their own childhoods, their fears, their faiths, and often, the influences of their fathers.
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