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Using animation to recreate recorded interviews with fellow veterans of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Israeli film director Ari Folman attempts to better understand his own role in the conflict.
Winner of the Best Foreign Language Film award at the 2009 Golden Globes
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The seeds of Waltz With Bashir, Ari Folman’s critically acclaimed and beautifully animated documentary, were sown during a night of drinking with an old friend of the director. Both were conscripts in the Israeli army when war was declared against Lebanon in 1982, and as the two drank Folman’s friend recounted a recurring dream where a pack of dogs would hunt him down to his place of work. He believed the dream stemmed from his job during the war, which involved shooting dogs that could alert enemy soldiers to his platoon’s position. After hearing this story, it occurred to Folman that he had no recollections of the war himself. So he set out to interview as many of his old companions as possible, seeking to regain his lost memories.
The resulting film is equal parts exquisite and harrowing. Traversing Europe, Folman made contact with a number of men who fought alongside him during his time in Lebanon, and their stories are at times truly incredible. Moulded by the passage of time, Folman and his colleagues remember a year when they were making the last jump from adolescence to adulthood during the most difficult of situations. While pining for ex-girlfriends
Waltz With Bashir is a remarkable film that makes an indelible mark on the documentary genre. Its many inventive flourishes meld the real and surreal in a captivating tapestry of simple, beautiful artwork. The strange dreams and recollections perfectly capture the insanity of war and the ridiculous moments that are almost beyond belief (the title is taken from one such tale, when Folman’s commander grabbed a light machine gun and danced “an insane waltz” in the middle of a Beirut street under heavy fire, posters of Gemayal plastered across every wall.) Using his own repressed memories as the basis of an examination of the mental toll suffered by young men in times of conflict, Folman paints an image that could be familiar to any soldier who spent the first years of adulthood fighting just to stay alive. It is an engrossing journey, brilliantly told.