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Waltz with Bashir

Director: Ari Folman

Israel /Germany/France • 2008 • 90 min • Documentary /Animation/Biography • Director : Ari Folman


ARI FOLMAN’S MEMOIR OF THE 1982 ISRAELI INVASION OF LEBANON CAPTURES THE SURREAL HORRORS OF MODERN WARFARE LIKE NO OTHER MOVIE. LITERALLY SO, SINCE PRESENTING EVENTS AS AN ANIMATED DOCUMENTARY BEING ASSEMBLED BY ITS FALLIBLE NARRATOR PROVIDES EXTRAORDINARY SCOPE TO DEPICT HALLUCINATORY MAYHEM ON A SCALE WAY BEYOND THE MEANS OF ANY INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER.
A sensation in Cannes earlier this year, this is in fact an autobiographical investigation, since documentarist Folman saw active combat during his Israeli national service at the time, only to wonder subsequently why he seemed to have blanked it from his memory. Answering that question takes him on a journey to fill in the blanks, telling testimony from the buddies who served alongside him leading inexorably towards Beirut and the shocking events which unfolded in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.
Painstakingly hand-painted over a period of four years, the visuals bring a graphic-novel stylisation to the material, helping to draw us into the film’s urgently inventive combination of first-person recollection and vividly recreated wartime tableaux. Highly controversial in Israel, where its guilt-wracked stance has been attacked by both sides of the political divide, the film wrestles manfully with the nature of responsibility. Some will see in it a touching and meaningful act of contrition; for others it’s a typically self-absorbed Israeli response to the sufferings of the Palestinians. No one, though, could fail to respond to the powerful final moments of this searing, distinctive confrontation with a tragedy whose legacy still shapes the ongoing quest for peace in the Middle East. — Trevor Johnston.

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