Two New Documentaries This Weekend at The Film Forum

Film documentary buffs strike gold this weekend, when two Oscar-nominated, rapturously reviewed new docs rule the Film Forum marquee. Our regular feature, as tough and thorny as its subject, is The Gatekeepers, from Israel. Using fairly standard documentary techniques—interviews and archival footage presented in a straight-ahead chronology—director Dror Moreh scrutinizes the history of Israeli’s domestic counter-terrorism campaign since the Six-Day War. Moreh’s subject is Shin Bet, Israeli’s famous anti-terrorist intelligence agency (Shin Bet is to Mossad more or less what the FBI is to the CIA). How Moreh got six former heads of Shin Bet—men well-accustomed to keeping mum—to speak as candidly as they do, is a wonder in its own right. Perhaps, as the Boston Globe suggests, these “aging warriors of realpolitik” have simply “grown weary of carrying secrets.” But the greater marvel is how Moreh conjures from his interviews a greater narrative of ambivalence and regret—and not just about a botched air strike or a rendition gone awry, but about the futility of hard-fisted military responses to an enduring political crisis

“As a clear-eyed examination of a conflict that seems to have no end,” says the Philadelphia Inquirer, “The Gatekeepers is powerful, provocative stuff. These six men have stood on the front lines, but they also stand on the blurry lines of right and wrong, of moral doubt, and self-doubt.”

Not to say these men are sentimental. They make no apology for their careers. But their pragmatism outstrips ideology, and what isn’t working isn’t working. Says Yaakov Peri, who ran Shin Bet from 1988 to 1994, “When you retire [from Shin Bet], you become a bit of a leftist.” The Film Forum will screen The Gatekeepers on Thursday and Friday at 7:30, and on Sunday, at 7 p.m.

After Sunday’s screening, Bard College Professor Ethan Bloch will talk about the film and lead a conversation. Dr. Bloch co-founded Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, and has co-chaired of the National Middle East Task Force of New Jewish Agenda. Born and schooled in Israel, he continues to makes Israel his home each summer.

On Saturday evening, June 1, the Film Forum presents a one-time screening of How to Survive a Plague, a gripping account of the life-saving role of New York City activist groups, Act Up and Tag, in fast-tracking the delivery of crucial medication to numberless young men diagnosed with HIV at the height of the epidemic. Instead of focusing on the disease itself, director David France celebrates the ingenuity and resolve of the self-made activists who infiltrated Big Pharma and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to desperate patients in record time. Using never-seen footage from the 1980s and ’90s, France puts viewers at the heart of the controversial actions and exultant victories of heroes in the making.

This 7 p.m. screening will be followed by a conversation with Damien Center program director and long-time AIDS activist Dorothy Nangle, and Dr. Ralph Liporace from the HIV/AIDS Division of the Albany Medical Center, and moderated by Albany community activist, Harry Faddis. How to Survive a Plague is an In the Public Interest! screenings, made possible by a grant from the Adirondack Trust Company Community Find. Film Forum screenings are at the Dee Sarno Theater in the Saratoga Arts Center at 320 Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs. For more information about these screenings and our presenters, please visit the Now Playing page on our Web site. General admission is $7; Film Forum members and students pay $5.

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