Title: Waltz with Bashir (2008)
Runtime: 90 minutes
Director: Ari Folman
Cast: Ari Folman, Ron Ben-Yishai, Ronny Dayag
Ari Folman presents his harrowing experiences from the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the first ever animated documentary Waltz with Bashir. Twenty years after his military service, Folman, the director, is contacted by a former Israeli military colleague who discusses his reoccurring nightmare and its direct connection to the atrocities committed in Lebanon. Upon hearing this, Folman realizes that his memories of Lebanon have been completely erased. This documentary is his journey to reacquiring these memories and uncovering the truth about the invasion and the horrific massacre that took place in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut.
The memories, hallucinations and dreams present in the film could only be effective through animation; therefore, with a team of seven other animators, four illustrators, one After Effects artist and one editor, he recreated his experiences for the big screen (to preview the film and get a sense of the animation be sure to watch the film trailer posted on the left hand side of this site). Folman is persistent that Waltz with Bashir was not rotoscoped, which is the process of tracing real footage frame by frame to achieve an animated effect. “You see the technique, you see the drawings, and that takes your focus. If this film had been rotoscoped, it would have been hard for the audience to get emotional with the characters.” It should be noted that aside from the highly acclaimed visual work, a captivating soundtrack by Max Richter heightens emotions and draws viewers into the conflict.
Real footage displaying the aftermath of the massacre is also presented in the film. In a separate interview, Folman was asked what his reasons for including such traumatic footage were. “If you as an audience would end up watching this film, go out of the theatre and think: ‘Wow, this was a really cool animated film! Nice drawings, really beautiful, I like the music,’ I missed the whole point. I want you to know that behind those beautiful drawings and animation there were real people; they were slaughtered; they were killed; there were kids there; there were women there; there were thousands of people there.”
Waltz with Bashir received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Film from 2009, screened at Cannes Film Festival and appeared on nineteen critics’ top ten lists for 2008. Despite the praise, this documentary has been banned in many Arab countries including Lebanon, the country where much of the film takes place; however, bloggers in Lebanon have managed to draw attention to the film. Screenings for Lebanese critics have taken place as well as a private screening in Beruit. Folman commented on the progress saying: “I was overwhelmed and excited. I wish I could have been there. I wish one day I’ll be able to present the film myself in Beirut. For me, it will be the happiest day of my life.”
Though the film takes place in the midst of a seemingly endless conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, Folman declares to viewers and critics alike that Waltz with Bashir is not a political film. “In my personal view, I don’t know if a lot of people will agree with me, it’s a completely non-political film whatsoever. If it was a political film it would’ve dealt with the other side as well, meaning we would’ve interviewed the Palastinian side, the Christian side; and it’s not. It’s a very personal film and the text and the subtext of the film is really basic and even prosaic and banal.” Folman goes on to explain that his documentary is an anti-war film, but it is very different than other anti-war films. “…a lot of anti-war films are being done, but if you watch and look at them in the eyes of youngsters, a fifteen year old youngster or sixteen year old, he might miss the whole point because he might think: ‘Wow, yes it’s tough, you know, but look at the friendship aspect, you know. Look at the real man; look at bravery. I want to be there!’ I hope that when one sees Waltz with Bashir he doesn’t want to be there. He just does not want to be there. And if it will happen to a few kids, I did my job.”
Next: Dead Man (1995)