The Arty Semite

Chatting with Oscar-Nominated Israeli Filmmaker Dror Moreh

By Sheerly Avni

This morning brought a first for the Israeli film industry. Two of the five Oscar nods for the Best Documentary went to Israeli films the “5 Broken Cameras” and “The Gatekeepers,” both movies that deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — but from opposing views.

The praise, particularly for “The Gatekeepers,” is the latest in a string of accolades. Last weekend, it was named the best nonfiction film of 2012 by the National Society of Film Critics in the United States.

Filmmaker Dror Moreh’s film derives less from its subject matter — Israeli political and military history — than from the director’s unprecedented access to his subjects, all of whom have served as chiefs of Israel’s secret police, known in Hebrew as Shabak and in English as Shin Bet.

This fall, the Forward’s Sheerly Avni sat down with Moreh to discuss his inspiration and the conflict.

Tall and dark-haired, 51-year-old Moreh stands with the consciously straight posture of a man accustomed to carrying heavy equipment (he began his career as a cameraman). He met with the Forward’s Sheerly Avni for coffee in Telluride, in a cafe directly across the street from the theater at which he had just received a standing ovation, and explained why his joy over the film’s enthusiastic reception continues to take a back seat to fears for his country’s future.

Sheerly Avni: What inspired you to make this film?

Dror Moreh: Like many Israelis, I feel very bleak about our current situation. I have family and children in Israel, and I am terrified. So I wanted to make a film that would ask hard questions about where we are headed. I wanted this to be a movie that no one could argue with, where no one could say, “These people don’t know what they are talking about,” or it’s “their bias,” or, “It’s just one opinion.” So I knew that I needed not just one former chief of the Shin Bet, but all of them. Every single man would need to agree to speak with me.

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