Premise: Film Screening | Waltz With Bashir [3]

Film Review [3] | 'Waltz With Bashir' 
Fig. 1
Ari Folman's 'Waltz with Bashir', released back in 2009, is a "piece of investigative journalism" (Scott, 2008), that recounts one of the most distressing moments of the Lebonon War 20 years earlier in 1982; The Sabra and Shatila Massacre, through the eyes of director Folman (a former Israeli soldier whom, after 22 years of service, begins to talk to the army therapist about things he'd otherwise buried down).
Having suffered from severe PTSD and finding a difficulty in recalling memories from his time in the military, he sets out to interview Israeli army friends who were also present, so to reconstruct "memories, fantasies, hallucinations, possibilities, past and present" (Ebert, 2009), using the medium of animation.
Fig. 2
Having no past experience in animation, but rather working as an Israeli documentarian, one might ask why Folman's choice for said medium? Arguably there's multiple reasoning's behind this decision.
The first, and foremost being Folman's  inability to film the people he interviews;"You can draw, but don't film" ('Waltz With Bashir', 2008). Particularly since these events are still fresh in people's lives and "repressed within the Israeli mind"1, as a potent form of guilt "which Israel can concede without admitting to direct culpability" (1 Bradshaw, 2008).

The second; it strengthens the message around memory loss, and the almost 'fictitious-like' element to this horror. This is all the more shocking when the memory unravels, and exposes itself as 'true'- the likes have the animation transform to real-life footage of the massacre (when Folman suddenly recognises the true reality of this war crime).
Even the loading screen, depicting the dog running horizontally, draws a likeness to a game loading screen, again (perhaps unintentionally) enforcing the 'fictitious' impression of conflict, wherein things are too horrific for us to understanding to its true degree, and working with Folman's detachedness to his own involvement (the screen as a way to decrease empathy, as we're unable to understand the true gravity of the events).  The film acknowledges this relationship between film and empathy/apathy; "He looked at everything as if he were looking through a camera", and "During all of this, you could see civilians up on the balconies staring, making comments,  just looking down.  Women, children, and old people are watching the violence as if they were just watching a movie".

And thirdly as a means of exploring the more unconscious mental-side effects and experiences of the soldiers during the conflict, that wouldn't have been 'captured' unless explored through the medium of animation (i.e. the dogs, the woman etc.). The memory that triggered Folman into action not really being a memory at all, but rather a "dream, a reverie" (Bradshaw, 2008), wherein himself and his fellow soldiers wake from the sea, climb up from the beech and encounter a wave of grieving women, shouting, screaming and hobbling aimlessly past him.
 Fig. 3
In that regard, animation was a paramount part of the message of 'The Waltz of Bashir'. Not simply a footage of cold hard facts, but rather an empathetic glimpse of this conflict as if we were there ourselves. With the mental states, fear and confusion of the characters potent enough to taste-and for us to begin to understand (rather than remaining relatively detached from the news of a far of country, separated by a glass screen and a hundred thousand miles).

Many falsely believe the film was made via rotoscoping animation, but in actual fact it was a combination between hand-drawn and flash animation.
The methodology was first to videotape the interviews and "even bare-bones representations of the war re-enactments" (Kaufman, 2008), at the sound stage of the film. Once recorded, it was directly storyboarded and made into a detailed animatic (revised multiple times so to eliminate as many problems that may crop up before the animating process began). 3,500 key frames were drawn- for the most part- by art director and illustrator David Polonsky (whose style dictated the animation thereafter- both for the 'realistic' themes and the 'dream-style' for the more surreal content; freer "in terms of proportions, color and basic design"), while the in-betweens were completed by Tal Gadon, and Gali Edelbaun, Neta Holzer, Asenath [Osi] Wald, Sefi Gayego, Orit Shimon, Zohar Shahar, Lilach Sarid, and Barak Drori led by Yoni Goodman, in their signature 'cut-out' style.
Autodesk Maya was used sparingly for a few establishing shots, (by Wald, Michael Faust, Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka and Ya'ara Buchman.
The environments were referenced heavily from existing photographs, and the characters were broken into sections (sometimes with issues of dissonance between the top half and the lower half of the body, which meant that "in many places, we [Folham and his team], did the lower part of the body with frame-by-frame classic animation" (Kaufman, 2008), to retain this element of 'realism' throughout.
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
The monochrome colour scheme "between orange and black- melancholy and depressing, and less detailed as the characters" (Kaufman, 2008) tied the content continuously back to Folham's memory. A memory that's ever present throughout- though constantly alluding for the first part of the documentary.

The final sequence of the real live-action footage of the event effectively breaks the walls we draw between ourselves and others in warn-torn countries, with the horrific realisation this had actually happened.
Some audiences were unsure of this shift; Bradshaw (2008) argues he has " uncomfortable feeling that it is an aesthetic error, and a tactic concession that the animation techniques used until that moment are lacking in seriousness: once the tragedy is directly broached, they must be abandoned. A minor loss of nerve perhaps". However, the director himself claims he "just wanted to prevent a situation where someone somewhere would walk out of the theatre and think it was a cool anti-war movie with great drawing and music...That video footage puts my story in place, the design and animation style in place, the story in place, and the audience in place".
This effect is noticeable as many reviewers see this part of the film the most game-changing, and uncomfortably close to home.

For those involved in its creation, 'Waltz With Bashir' is a means to open up the repressed events of the massacre. When asked if it could "move Israeli hearts and minds so intensely that it prevents a future war?"2 they claimed "Cinema doesn't change the world" (2 Freedland, 2008), but merely offers the means to deal with it years after.
The film is still currently banned in Lebanon, and is considered in Israel as 'anti-war'. However there are examples of residents managing to acquire a copy and show private screening in the city (Monika Borgmann- such a resident- claims that "It's important to show Israeli films because this demonization is not useful at all. In the end, everybody has at one point to live together in this region. And I believe that at lease understanding the so-called "other" could be a step against this demonization" (Borgmann, 2009).

Fig. 1 'Waltz With Bashir', (2008), [Film Still]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 02/02/2018]
Fig. 2 'Waltz With Bashir', (2008), [Film Still]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 02/02/2018]
Fig. 3 'Waltz With Bashir', (2008), [Film Still]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 02/02/2018]
Fig. 4 'Waltz With Bashir', (2008), [Film Still]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 02/02/2018]
Fig. 5 'Waltz With Bashir', (2008), [Film Still]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 02/02/2018]
Bradshaw, Peter (2008), 'Waltz With Bashir', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 02/02/2018]
Ebert, Roger (2009), 'Waltz With Bashir', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 02/02/2018]
Freedland, Jonathan (2008), 'Lest we forget', [Online]. Avaliable at: [Accessed Date: 02/02/2018]
Gross, Terry (2008), 'Dancing With Memory, Massacre In 'Bashir'', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 02/02/2018]
Kaufman, Debra (2008), 'How They Did It: Waltz With Bashir', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 02/02/2018]
'PRI: Public Radio International', (2009), 'Lebanon bans "Waltz with Bashir"', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 02/02/2018]
Scott, A.O. (2008), 'Inside a Veteran's Nightmare', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 02/02/2018]


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