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JDIFF 2013 reviews part 6: The Gatekeepers & Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God

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The Gatekeepers

The Gatekeepers


Directed by: Dror Moreh // Israel
IMDB // trailer //  Screened at JDIFF on February 17th 2013

This Oscar-nominated documentary is remarkable not just because of its subject matter (Israel’s national security activity over the last 45 years), but because of the people speaking. Instead of using academics and historians as talking heads, director Dror Moreh has somehow managed to convince all the former heads of the Shin Bet (Israel’s “CIA-equivalent”) to speak out. This means we’re getting remarkably candid interviews giving first-hand accounts of the terrorist attacks and state retributions that have shaped modern Israel.

The CGI environments that have been created to help bring archive photographs to life are also incredible, none less so than the infamous Bus 300 affair. The greatest credit must go to Moreh for providing a balanced story that doesn’t paint either Israel or Palestine in very good light with the title of the film’s third chapter being the lingering thought – “One Man’s Terrorist Is Another Man’s Freedom Fighter.”


Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God


Directed by: Alex Gibney // USA
IMDB // trailer //  Screened at JDIFF on February 15th 2013

Alex Gibney’s documentary, which is now showing on UPC On Demand and on a limited release across some Dublin cinemas, is remarkably well-timed in its arrival. His documentary about clerical abuse points a hell of a lot of fingers toward the Vatican and the man who is vacating his throne next week, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as the man fronting the institution which knew about the wrongs and chose to do nothing about them. 

The film’s first half tells the story of four deaf men who were abused in their school by Fr. Lawrence Murphy, their later public protest is considered the first time people spoke out against the church and started a quarter-century of un-relenting accusations and claims. As well as dealing with US-centric abuse, the film also spends some time in Ireland with our own Enda Kenny getting a lot of screentime for his 2011 speech which spoke out against the Vatican and their indoctrinated position in Irish society. Ultimately all roads lead to Rome though, with the culture of secrecy and sense of entitlement to exist outside of state laws being the over-riding thing that sticks in your throat.

The film is a little disjointed and the move away from the deaf boys school in Milwaukee to Ireland and back again is a little jarring. That aside, this really is essential viewing for anyone trying to make sense of a truly sickening mess.

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Nigel loves stupid films almost as much as he likes clever films. He'll watch anything but is usually drawn to documentaries, North American independent films, Irish cinema and gung-ho, balls-to-the-walls Hollywood blockbusters. Here's what he's been watching.