Thursday, 18 May 2017

Global Animated Film Review: Israel- Waltz with Bashir

Fig 1: Waltz with Bashir Theatrical Poster

Waltz with Bashir is a 2008 Israeli animated documentary film, written and directed by Ari Folman. The film is from a personal experience of Folman who is trying to recover his lost memories of when he was a 19 year old soldier in 1983 during the Lebanon War. It features many other ex-soldiers who worked with Folman and gives their accounts of what happened in the war. The film was nominated for multiple awards included the Golden Globes and BAFTAS for Best Animation and Best Foreign Language Film, Waltz with Bashir also has a predominately positive rating from film critics and was in the top ten films of 2008 in multiple film critics lists including Ella Taylor in L.A. Weekly and Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment weekly. The film is permanently banned in Lebanon due to the film depicting a time in the countries history that was brutally violent and devastating, however there has been protests to allow the film to have limited screenings across the country.

Fig: Dogs in Folman's dreams

Detailing the events of the Lebanon War, war veteran and the director of the film, Ari Folman, experiences recurring nightmares of dogs chasing him. He reaches out to his friend from the war and the two make the connection that there might be a connection between the nightmares Folman experiences to an early part of the Lebanon War. However due to the fact that Folman cannot recollect that period of his life, he goes out of his way to meet other war veterans to understand the effects that unfolded during the war. Throughout the film, he dreams of the Sabra and Shatila Massacre and through the help of numerous accounts of the events from the other veterans, and the Journalist, Ron Ben-Yishai, Ari is able to recover the lost memories of the gruesome events that took place in 1982.

Fig 2: War is the norm

The film took four years to make and is strange for a documentary as it is almost completely animated. Despite its appearance the film was made with 3D assets and Adobe Flash using cutouts, where each image was broken up into a number of pieces to allow for movement, instead of rotoscoping, where the animation is drawn over a live action piece of footage. The art style for the film was directed by David Polensky with the animation being directed by Yoni Goodman and features scenes drawn by various artists. The use parodied 1980's music to tell the events in Lebanon reflects the decade and tells the viewers of what happened without having to go through in detail exposition by having a familiar catchy tune. Despite the majority of the film being rendered in this animation style, the ending of the film shows real life footage of the aftermath of the massacre and Folman finally remembers the events leading up to the travesty that took place in 1982. This change from animation to live action lays down the fact that these events actually happened and aren't fictional in shocking detail.

Fig 3: Surreal moment of a Giant Woman climbing aboard ship

Overall the film details the events of the Sabre and Shatila Massacre, giving context to the Lebanon War and the lead up to the massacre. It does this through a compelling journey follow Folman trying to remember what happened. There is no sugarcoating, the film gives grim details of war and its effects on the soldiers who go to fight for their country. The veterans featured all have their fair share of psychological issues because of what happened in the war. The use of animation allowed for surreal moments and illustrate events in the Lebanon war through parody songs and exaggeration.

Fig 4: Folman's recurring dream of walking up shore to Lebanon

Animation in Israel in the year 1961, with the film Joseph and the Dreamer directed by Yoram Gross, but it is not a prominent method of film making in the country. Early Israeli productions were stop-motion animations with plasticine models, while more modern 2D animations use various 2D methods using flash and and some 3d animations are used too, as present in Waltz with Bashir. While Waltz with Bashir is probably the most well known animated film to come from Israel due to its plot revolving the countries recent history in such a thought provoking manner, the country also produced other films, both collaborating with other countries like France and Australia. One example, $9.99, an Australian film written and directed by Taiti Rosenthal with its screenplay by Etgar Keret, both Israelis.


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