Waltz With Bashir

Artistically innovative, politically committed and personally expressive, Ari Folman's “Waltz With Bashire” is one of the most original films of the year, a feature that qualifies as animated documentary, thus its nominations and wins in both categories at various film festivals.


One night at a bar, an old friend tells director Ari Folman's about a recurring nightmare in which he is chased by 26 vicious dogs, which constitutes the first, utterly striking and shocking segment in the picture. Every night, the same number of beasts. The two men conclude that there’s a connection to their Israeli Army mission in the first Lebanon War of the early 1980s, but Ari is surprised that he can’t remember a thing anymore about that presumably significant period of his life.


Intrigued by this riddle, he decides to meet and interview old friends and comrades around the world. And from that point on, “Waltz With Bashir” becomes sort of a road movie.  Folman needs to discover the truth about that painful time and about himself. As Ari delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, his memory begins to creep up in images that are truly surreal.  One of the film's forceful visual motifs depicts a bunch of soldiers emerging naked out of the waters of Lebanon in the middle of the night. 


Perhaps the best compliment to pay this feature is that in its powerful imagery and vital intelligence it's incomparable to any other animation or docu.  Yet in broader terms, “Waltz With Bashir” may belong to a cycle of films, prime among which is Coppola's “Apocalypse Now,” which depict war as madness and hell and combat as an experience that could only be captured in surreal terms.  Witness the climax of this docu, in which a solider goes on an irrational killing spree, in which, trapped in an empty, desolate street, he shoots indiscriminately everything in sight.


A word about Folman, since I assume his work is unfamiliar to most viewers outside Israel.  In the mid-1980s, after completing his military service, Ari Folman ventured out on his dream trip to circle the world with a backpack. Just two weeks and two countries into the trip, he realized traveling was not for him, so he settled into small guesthouses in Southeast Asia and wrote letters to his friends at home, letters in which he fabricated the perfect trip. After one year of being in one place and expressing his fantastical imagination, he return homed to study cinema.


Folman's graduate film, “Comfortably Numb” (1991) documented Ari’s close friends taking cover on the verge of anxiety attacks during the first Gulf war while Iraqi missiles landed all over Tel Aviv. The result was comical and absurd and the film won the Israeli Academy award for Best Documentary.  Between 1991-1996 Ari directed documentary specials for TV, mainly in the occupied territories. In 1996 he wrote and directed “Saint Clara”, a feature based on a novel by Czech author Pavel Kohout. The film won seven Israeli Academy awards, including Best Director and Best Film. “Saint

Clara” opened the Berlin Film Festival's Panorama and won the People’s Choice Award.


His second feature, “Made in Israel,” in 2001, is a futuristic fantasy that centers upon the pursuit of the wold’s only remaining Nazi. Ari has written for several successful Israeli TV series, including the award-winning “In Therapy,” which became the basis for the new HBO series “In Treatment.”