The other day, I finally caught a showing of Waltz With Bashir, Israel’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film. This animated film is based on filmmaker Ari Folman’s attempt to recover memories of his time as an Israeli soldier in the Lebanon War in the 1980s. Folman’s use of animation conjured up memories of Waking Life and Persepolis, the latter mostly because animation was used to tell a true story there as well.
It was only after a conversation he had with an old friend that Folman had one memory resurface of his time in the war and he wasn’t even sure that it was a real memory. He set out to find out about his time in the army, which included tracking down former soldiers he fought with and former soldiers in other battalions that he may or may not have crossed paths with during that time in the early 80s.
The film was shot mostly like a documentary as animated Folman spoke to animated versions of real people (I believe only one person was voiced by an actor but was still based on a real person). Not only did he talk to people in the army, but psychologists and others that provided insight on the nature of his memories and war. These interviews are supplemented with scenes from the war. As we see Folman getting closer and closer to discovering his role in the war in general and a massacre more specifically, the viewer gets drawn into Folman’s journey through his lost history.
The movie was intense and raw at times. After watching it, I realized I don’t know much at all about the Lebanon War and not a thing about the massacre that occurs in the movie that resulted in the murder of 2,000 Palestinian refugees.
The following from the Wikipedia article for Waltz With Bashir:
Like all Israeli films, the film has been banned in most Arab countries, with the most harsh critics in Lebanon, as the movie depicts a vague and violent time in Lebanon’s history. A movement of bloggers, among them the Lebanese Inner Circle, +961 and others have rebelled against the Lebanese government’s ban of the movie, and have managed to get the movie be seen by local Lebanese critics, in defiance of their government’s request on banning it.
I really don’t understand this knee-jerk reaction. Folman is trying to unearth memories that have been long ago repressed and in doing so, provides a look into the war that is devoid of propaganda that would have colored the experience of watching Waltz With Bashir otherwise. I really do hope that Lebanon and other Arab countries allow this movie to screen.
At then end of the film, everyone in the entire theater merely sat there in silence when the credits started rolling. No one got up immediately. We all just…sat there as we still tried to absorb Folman’s quest into long repressed memories. My friend and I were discussing whether or not we could watch it again. I’m actually not quite sure if I could but I definitely do recommend at least one viewing of Waltz With Bashir in order to get a bit of insight into a period of time that many of us don’t know anything about.