Waltz with Bashir

In keeping with the trend of cultural posts today (see the previous one about the book “Off the Wall”),  I would like to bring to Media Shack’s readers’ attention an incredible film that is been unanimously lauded by critics across the globe: “Waltz with Bashir” by Israeli director Ari Folman.

“Waltz with Bashir” is unique in many ways.  It is an animated documentary.  But the characters in it, despite being drawn animations, are actually animations of real people interviewed.  The movie is a reflection on the ethics of forgetting. Folman tries to remember why he can’t remember his days as an IDF soldier in Beirut during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.  He goes about the world interviewing fellow soldiers who were with him in Beirut, and journalists, and meets at intervals with his psychiatrist friend in order to discuss his findings and rationalize his brain’s selective memory.

The animation is highly stylized, and looks like a comic book that’s come to life.  But the subjects tackeld are far from being as flat as mere drawings. This film does something Lebanon has still not done:  it tackles head on the moral implications of war, the way in which seemingly normal people deal with their participation in atrocious events, like the Sabra and Shatila massacres, and doesn’t shy away from casting judgment on the morality and ethics of war, of Israel’s policies,  or of Israel’s own leaders.   Since I am not by profession a film critic, I will not plunge into a long essay about why “Waltz with Bashir” gets my thumbs up.  I will only passionately advocate  anyone even remotely interested in the Middle East to SEE THIS FILM!  It is absolutely haunting, penetrating, disturbing, and an artistic and political masterpiece.  Of course, the fact that a film which so directly and candidly deals  with the history of Lebanon cannot even be shown in Lebanon itself is symptomatic of the country’s (and the region’s) wilful blindness to its own past.