Waltz with Bashir

This film has the rather rare label of being an animated documentary. It follows the quest of the film maker, Ari Folman, to unblock suppressed memory of his experiences as a soldier in the Lebanon war, specifically his service in Beirut when he was 19 years old. With the help of a psychologist and former veterans, he helps make sense of a recurrent dream he has where he is bathing in the sea over-looking the shell of Beirut which is lit up by flares. The significance of this dream slowly becomes apparent after various discussions and reminiscing about a period he has thought little about in the preceding 20 years. And the inevitable results explain, if explanation was needed, why he had buried these memories in a shallow grave of his subconscious and why these memories needed to be properly laid to rest.

Say the word genocide and one immediately thinks of the Holocaust and the Jews. Of course butchery can happen anywhere and be perpetrated by anyone. In this instance, it was perpetrated by Christian Lebanese Philangists to Palestinian refugees under the auspices of the Israel Defence Force, of whom Ari Folman was a soldier. It became known as the Sabra and Shatila Massacre.

You’d be forgiven if your knowledge of history in this field is a little small. Mine was pretty non-existant and I imagine I’m not the only one. By using selective amnesia as a theme, Folman permits our ignorance excused and allows us to learn afresh. By using (superb) animation he not only fires our imagination but he also gently acclimatises us to the horror of the films’ outcome, where we graduate from animation to real news footage of the atrocity.

I wondered how I’d never heard of it before. Indeed, how many similar incidents get buried in the sands of time. It got me reading about the subject, wanting to find out more. Maybe it should be on the school syllabus? Had this been a standard documentary on a cable channel I probably wouldn’t have invested so much time and attention. But Ari Folman demonstrates not only expertise on the subject but a deft ability to captivate his audience too with the use of animation and music.

Superb animation and an informative, sobering documentary.

Waltz with Bashir [Buy on DVD]

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