Waltz With Unbearable Memory

Following Haim’s recommendation, I went to see Ari Folman’s documentary, “Waltz With Bashir,” on the 1982 Lebanon War and the Sabra and Shatilla massacre.

Haim is right that every Israeli should see “Waltz.” But so should anyone elsewhere whose country has marched thoughtlessly into war, or for that matter, anyone interested in the art of film. My article about the movie is now up at the American Prospect. Snippets:

Virtually the entire film is presented in film-noir animation. Folman thereby bends the boundaries of his genre (even more than the recent, partially animated “Chicago 10” did). “Waltz” may be to the documentary what Art Spiegelman’s Maus was to the novel. Strangely, animation makes the film less fictional. Not restricted to old footage, Folman can portray scenes that no one photographed, just as a historian can recreate the past with the written word…

Watching Sharon on screen, I realize that after years of writing about the Israeli leader, I am unsure I know the full extent of his culpability. On the night when Ben-Yishai called, how did Sharon go to sleep? Did the commission fail by not examining whether Sharon should face criminal charges? Afterward, how did he continue his political career? I was at the demonstration of 400,000 in Tel Aviv and the march through Jerusalem after the commission report and other protests too numerous to remember. Did we settle for too little?

Read the full article here.

5 thoughts on “Waltz With Unbearable Memory

  1. First, to set the record straight…it is a myth that there were 400,000 people at the demonstration. A few years ago I saw a newspaper article telling how people got aerial photographs of the demonstration, seeing the extent of it down the side streets. They then measured the area and determined how many people could stand in a square meter. They came to the conclusion that there were something like 50,000 people there. It certainly was a large demonstration, one of the largest in the country’s history, but there weren’t 400,000 there. There have been other demonstrations since then that got as many, if not more, including demonstrations against the Oslo accords, against giving up the Golan Heights and against destroyting Gush Katif. That number was made up for the press by the organizers to impress everyone, and it worked, it has even managed to get into history books, which just proves how one should be careful when reading things are supposed to be “accurate”.

    Secondly, it is interesting how Sharon has managed to shake off the stigma of Sabra and Shatilla, and the Lebanon I War, in general. Actually it was quite simple. He destroyed Gush Katif and the political Right, and so for “progressives”, sticking it to the YESHA settlers overrides any other crimes, including the needless deaths of both Israeli soldiers and Arabs, he committed. It all comes down to politics, not “morality”.

  2. I saw the movie and was blown away by it. I have shared with anyone who will listen that this movie is a “must see”. Your article is thought provoking and wonderful.

  3. “… it is interesting how Sharon has managed to shake off the stigma of Sabra and Shatilla, and the Lebanon I War, in general.”

    How did you reach this conclusion? Perhaps you are so preoccupied with “Gush Katif and the political Right” that you no longer associate Sharon with Sabra and Shatilla or Lebanon (if you ever did), but you are pretty much alone on that one. Sharon will never, ever “shake off” that association, mostly because it belongs squarely on his shoulders.

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