Film Review: Ari Folman's Waltz With Bashir (Vals Im Bashir) [2008] | DVD Blu-Ray Release

Waltz with Bashir (2008) Poster


Director Ari Folman presents an intriguing riddle: is a documentary still a documentary if it's animated? Taking over where fact-based animations like Waking Life and Chicago 10 left off, Israel’s Ari Folman tries to wrap his head around 1982's Lebanon War (the title refers to Lebanese leader Bashir Gemayel). Why do disturbing dreams plague his former army colleagues, while he remembers nothing? Folman meets with nine of them to find out. As they speak, animators recreate their experiences, but instead of rotoscoping or video-capture, Folman first shot his film on video and then assembled an animated version from the resulting storyboards. This graphic-novel approach suits their strange, surrealistic stories and parallels the work of Black Hole's Charles Burns, who tends to walk on the shadowy side (as opposed to Marjane Satrapi's more fanciful Persepolis). War may be hell, but moments of grace and beauty shine through, best exemplified by Roni Dayag’s recollection of a late-night swim away from the scene of a beachfront battle. Decades later, he still remembers the soothing peacefulness of the water. These reminiscences nudge Folman's repressed memories back to the surface, culminating in a horrific massacre to which he bore witness. Arguably, he didn't need to include actual footage of the deceased when stylized graphics get the point across fine. If Waltz with Bashir isn't a documentary in the conventional sense, it doesn't resemble most animated efforts either. What matters more is the harrowing narrative he constructs from out of the minds of these haunted men. - Kathleen C. Fennessy

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Movie Reviews

WALTZ WITH BASHIR got one thing right. When it comes to compulsive self criticism, Jews and Israel can't be beat.

If I had just dropped in from Mars with little knowledge of world history, and my first history lesson was WALTZ WITH BASHIR, I'd assume that Israel was an immoral miscreant for trying to defend itself against a particular ideology that delights in killing Jews. For example, on March 11, 1978, the PLO crossed from Lebanon into Israel, hijacked two buses, and murdered 37 people in cold blood, mostly kids. During the course of Arafat's adventures in Lebanon, the PLO murdered thousands of Christians, conducted terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and according to the U.N., violated 270 documented cease fire agreements. These little facts, including any reference to terrorists, Fatah, the PLO, or endemic Jew-hatred in the Middle East were conspicuously absent from the movie.

Between 1975 and 1990, Lebanon suffered approximately 200,000 civilian fatalities in a series of running conflicts involving Muslims vs. Christians, Syrians vs. Christians, the PLO vs. both Jews and Christians and the U.S. Marines getting hammered in Beirut. The number of civilians killed by the IDF was a small fraction of this number. One major point that the movie failed to point out is that the government of Lebanon INVITED the Israelis into Lebanon to help them get rid of the PLO, which the IDF eventually succeeded in doing. Part of the deal was to allow Arafat and his thugs to escape to Tunisia where Arafat could spend his days dreaming of dead Jews and basking in the glow of his European and Arab sycophants. Then, in 1993, under the Oslo Accords, Jewish guilt plus temporary insanity caused Israel to invite Arafat and the PLO back to the West Bank. Big Mistake! Let's not forget that when Israel REALLY occupied the West Bank, and not just 1.7% as it does today, Israel built Palestinian Universities, roads, hospitals and the life expectancy of West Bank Palestinians went from 44 to 67 years of age!

The movie gives the impression that Beirut was utterly destroyed by the IDF. In fact, Beirut was largely in ruins due to Christian Phalange attacks against Palestinian positions well before the IDF arrived. It is true that the IDF shelled and bombed buildings and allegedly killed several thousand civilians in an effort to destroy the PLO and related Palestinian terrorists. This really got Europe and the U.N. upset because they believe that Jews should not be allowed to defend themselves unless they can absolutely guarantee that there will be no collateral damage. Of course, the movie completely ignored the factors that compelled Israel to enter Lebanon in the first place. History reveals that Europe and the U.N. were complacent, not only when the PLO terrorized Israel, but both Europe and the U.N. failed to mount any meaningful protest after the PLO murdered, raped and tortured the Christian residents of Damur. Just as irritating is the fact that Europeans, who are in no position to criticize Jews, are probably unaware that Palestinian Muslims have been killing Palestinian Jews long before Israeli statehood in 1948. Does Haj Amin al-Husseini and the Muslim Brotherhood ring a bell? Probably not.

The final scene in the movie shows the massacre of Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila. These camps, in fact they are cities, became headquarters for the PLO. NOTE: WHY ARE THERE PALESTINIAN REFUGEE CAMPS IN THE FIRST PLACE? Some 800,000 Jews were driven out of Arab countries between 1948 and 1950, and most of them were successfully integrated into Israeli society. Why haven't Muslims accepted the Palestinians as equal citizens in any of their numerous nations? In any case, the IDF agreed to let the Christian militias go into the camps and drive out the PLO. The militias went crazy and took revenge on the Palestinians for murdering their families. During the siege of the camps, some members of the IDF suspected that Palestinian civilians were being killed, but they didn't do enough to stop it. In fact, the only recourse for the IDF would have been to go into the camps and start killing their Christian allies. In the end, after all the suffering caused by the PLO, the only thing that the world remembers is the Israeli connection to Sabra and Chatila.

Also, the movie makes the IDF out to be the most inept, corrupt, perverted fighting force in existence. One wonders how the IDF managed to win all its wars while receiving absolutely no American military aid during two of its most difficult defensive wars - Israel's War of Independence and the 1967, Six Day War?

Fred Remington, Del Mar

Cast and Crew

Theatrical Feature Running Time:
    90 mins

Complete Cast of Waltz With Bashir

    * Ari Folman
    * Roni Dayag
    * Ron Ben Yisahi

    * Ori Sivan
    * Shmuel Frenkel

    Ari Folman

    Ari Folman

    Yael Nahlieli, Serge Lalou, Roman Paul

Theatrical MPAA Rating:
    R(Children in Peril, Brief Nudity, War Violence)

    Documentary, Special Interest, Foreign

Waltz With Bashir Awards:

    * 2008 - Broadcast Film Critics Association - Best Foreign Language Film
    * 2008 - Hollywood Foreign Press Association - Best Foreign Language Film
    * 2008 - International Documentary Association - IDA Feature Documentary Award
    * 2008 - London Film Critics Association - Best Foreign Language Film
    * 2008 - Los Angeles Film Critics Association - Best Animation
    * 2008 - National Society of Film Critics - Best Picture