It’s a Guy Thing: Israel’s Oscar Nominees

Haim Watzman

For the third year running, an Israeli film is a nominee for the foreign film Oscar. I offer some thoughts on the difference between current and classic Israeli films in the current issue of The Forward:

When I was an adolescent growing up in America in the early 1970s, I knew of only two Israeli films. There was the soldier movie — that was Yosef Milo’s “He Walked Through the Fields.” And there was the one about Jaffa’s underclass — that was Menachem Golan’s “Kazablan.”

Four decades later, for three years in a row, Israeli films have been Oscar nominees for the best foreign-language film. Of the three, two are soldier films — Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort and Ari Folman’s Waltz With Bashir. The third is this year’s nominee, Ajami, Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani’s saga of the Jaffa underclass.

So what’s new?

The easy answer is that the two older films are inspiring and uplifting, while the three new ones are depressing and angst-ridden . . .

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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…

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