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Cannes 2008 Reactions: Waltz with Bashir

Waltz with Bashir is one of the films in competition getting some early buzz.

It is an animated film that documents the struggle of director Ari Folman to come to terms with the part he played in the first Lebanese war in 1982 and the massacre of Palestinian civilians in the West Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila.

There will be comparisons with last year’s Persepolis, which used animation to deal with political memories, but Kim Voynar of Cinematical thinks that would be unwise:

Where Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (to which this film will be inevitably, if somewhat inaccurately, compared) used stark black-and-white animation based on Satrapi’s graphic novels to tell the history of one girl growing up during the Iranian revolution, Waltz with Bashir uses vivid, hand-drawn animation to bring to life interviews Folman conducted with friends who were involved in the Lebanese war in the early 1980s to bring to life harrowing memories of death, guilt and regret.

She goes on to praise the film and talk up its Oscar prospects:

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Waltz with Bashir show up on the slate at Telluride in September, and even less so to see it wind up with an Oscar nod come January.

Folman has made a beautiful, disturbing and deeply compelling film that documents the horrors to which he and his friends were witnesses, while offering hope that he and others might, some day, heal from the ravages of war.

Anne Thompson of Variety was similarly impressed. She calls it:

…an odd Israeli documentary that is gorgeously and effectively animated.

Like the stylized Persepolis, the animation makes palatable scenes that would otherwise be horrific: hallucinatory flashbacks of Israeli soldiers on various campaigns in Lebanon, all leading to one long repressed memory of witnessing a 1982 massacre by Christian militia of Palestinians.

The filmmaker makes a journey back into his mind by interviewing people who might remember what he has suppressed.

Very strong film. Some of the animated characters’ POV have a vidgame feel. Early distrib response is cautious. They’ll check reviews and see where it goes.

Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune was another struck by the film and feels it:

…made up for the arch inertia of the opening-night selection.

The collaborators work in a style of animation resembling the rotoscoping efforts of Richard Linklater (”Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly”), though none of the fluid, insinuating frames was actually rotoscoped.

…Folman’s story has a lot to say about how a miserable conflict haunts those who wage it.

Watch the trailer here:


Waltz With Bashir, the first official trailer

There is another montage here:

> Waltz with Bashir at the official Cannes site
> Quiet Earth with a preview of Waking with Bashir
> Official site for Waltz with Bashir

By Ambrose Heron

Editor of FILMdetail

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