waltz with bashir

The animated film by Ari Folman, which slowly starts to hit theaters, caused some interest at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It introduces itself as a very personal narration about a soldier’s memory loss. From the synopsis:

One night at a bar, an old friend tells director Ari Folman about a recurring nightmare in which he is chased by 26 vicious dogs. Every night, the same number of beasts. The two men conclude that there’s a connection to their Israeli Army mission in the first Lebanon War of the early eighties. Ari is surprised that he can’t remember a thing anymore about that period of his life.

Intrigued by this riddle, he decides to meet and interview old friends and comrades around the world. He needs to discover the truth about that time and about himself. As Ari delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, his memory begins to creep up in surreal images … Andrew Pulver on the Guardian Film Blog noted:

It’s a soldier’s eye view of the Sabra and Shatila camp killings in 1982 – still one of the most shameful episodes in Israeli history, in which IDF units stood by as Lebanese Christian Phalangists brutally attacked Palestinian civilians. The exact number of deaths is not known, varying between Red Cross estimates of 7-800, and Phalangist claims of 2-3000. The Bashir in the title refers to Bashir Gemayel, the Lebanese president-elect whose murder in 1982 triggered the Phalangists’ rampage.

This film is remarkable, for one, in the very that it exists at all: it is a mea culpa, created by someone intimately connected with events. Director (and central figure) Ari Folman doesn’t attempt to evade, soft-pedal or make excuses. He presents the film as therapy; his own attempt to recover the blocked memories of what actually happened. In doing so, he himself makes an explicit connection between the death camps Jews had fled in Europe, and the refugee camps in which Palestinians were housed and brutalised in Lebanon. Folman isn’t pulling any punches. ….

I haven’t seen the film yet, and while I am suspicious by someone’s too obvious attempt to use an art form and a consequent production as a personal therapy, I am interested in this trial and outcome. While on one side a too personal approach can even turn a self-questioning attitude into something pompous, and I assume that might be meant by the comment of the guardian blogger speculating how Arab audiences might react, there is respect for the attempt to address the dark points of memory/history. (to explore deeper follow the links on this post on peoplesgeograpy.com.)

May be it’s on my own mind as a recurrent question, if not the dehumanizing actions of Israel against a genuine population are foremost the repressed occurrences of the German Holocaust. This thought poses urgency to the demand to break the cruel violence or at least to re-direct it to the original cause.

One of the first steps here might still be facing, addressing and admitting … one’s own history … and here I mean also the long-term repercussions which still evolve from ill-directed deeds, nevertheless already historical. To face means here to me also to take up responsibility and be active, but not in the way of a hubristic project like to impose one’s own convictions on someone, though in terms to recall respect and sensitivity for the other in a dialogue of acknowledgment and negotiation.

Further reviews:
LATimes Blog
and greencine (including numerous updates)

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