The mostly animated film tells the story of the film’s director, Ari Folman, as he looks into lost memories. He can no longer remember his involvement as a 19 year old Israeli soldier in the 1982 invasion of neighboring Lebannon.
It can be said that this invasion was Israel’s Vietnam. Or Israel’s Iraq War. Flimsy, made-up reasons started the war. Massive atrocities were commited, the most infamous being the massacre at the Sabra and Chatila Palestinian refugee camps. British journalist Robert Fiske entered the camps shortly after these massacres occurred. The excerpt below is from his 2002 edition of Lebannon: Pity The Nation
Another child lay on the roadway like a discarded doll, her white dress stained with mud and dust. She could have been no more than three years old. The back of her head had been blown away by a bullet fired into her brain. One of the women also held a tiny baby to her body. The bullet that had passed through her breast killed the baby also. Someone had split open the woman’s stomach, cutting sidways and upwards, perhaps trying to kill her unborn child. Her eyes were wide open, her face frozen in horror.
It was the assassination of Gemayel Bashir, the Maronite Christian President of Lebannon–only elected a few months before (he was the only canidiate)– that was used as an excuse for the massacres. Israeli troops sealed off the camps; the Lebbanon Christian militias waltzed in and started raping and shooting. Ari Folman was there with his unit; their mission was to shoot flares over the camps so that there would be plenty of light for the attackers.
It should be noted as Folman notes in the film that his parents were Holocaust survivors.
Still, there are some good critiques of the film and I think Hussein Ibish make them here. I agree with much of this critique, but I was deeply moved by the film and the way this history was told.
It isn’t a perfect film but a friend last night emailed me a quote from Folman:
Having made WALTZ WITH BASHIR from the point of view of a common soldier, I’ve come to one conclusion: war is so useless that it‘s unbelievable. It’s nothing like you’ve seen in American movies. No glam, no glory. Just very young men going nowhere, shooting at no one they know, getting shot by no one they know, then going home and trying to forget. Sometimes they can. Most of the time they cannot…