Sunday, January 25, 2009

Waltz with Bashir: film and graphic memoir

Gary Kamiya, Salon: In a strange case of art imitating life, at the same time that Israel [was] blasting a defenseless population enclosed in a tiny area, an Israeli film has appeared that depicts an earlier war in which Israel was complicit in an appalling massacre. The film's moral lessons apply not just to the terrible events that took place 28 years ago but also to what is happening today.

Waltz With Bashir is about [Ari] Folman's attempt to recover his lost memory of his experiences as a soldier during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and in particular the Sabra and Shatila slaughter of Palestinian civilians in two refugee camps. Carried out by Lebanese Christian militiamen, under Israeli protection and with its leaders' complicity, it was one of the most notorious massacres of the 20th century... Whether he himself gains any catharsis from his quest is not clear, for at the very end of the film he abruptly abandons both his personal narrative and his animated technique and simply shows filmed images of the slaughtered Palestinians heaped up like cordwood in the alleys of the camps...

Sooner or later the patriotic fervor will fade, and Israelis will realize that their leaders sent them to kill hundreds of innocent people for nothing. And perhaps in 2036, some haunted filmmaker will release 'Waltz with Hamas.' ... Then as now, Israel went to war in the deluded belief that it could defeat a nationalist movement by smashing it into submission. Then as now, America signed off on this wrongheaded tactic. Then as now, Israel won a short-term tactical military victory that ultimately weakened its security and severely damaged America's interests. And then as now, both Israel and America justified massive civilian casualties by incessantly invoking 'terrorism' and dehumanizing the Palestinians...

As the Israeli journalist Gideon Levy pointed out, the Gaza war is 'maybe the only war in history against a strip of land enclosed by a fence.'

TomGram: Waltz with Bashir, the animated documentary film [Ari] Folman directed in which he explores his own nightmarish, half-suppressed memories... has already won six Israeli Academy Awards, best foreign film at the Golden Globes, and is now nominated for an Oscar as best foreign film... A no less remarkable graphic memoir, Waltz with Bashir, was developed in tandem with the film. It can be ordered here (or in Canada, here).