With the ridiculous decision to slap Ari Folman’s animated doc with an ‘18’ – thus cutting out a hefty batch of history-hungry sixth-formers – this may not find its deserved wide audience until Martin Bashir inevitably succumbs to Strictly Come Dancing and mistaken buffoons snap up the DVD.
The cert is an outrage, apparently awarded due to one scene of animated sex and real footage of a massacre’s aftermath. The former is tame, the latter the sort of bloodshed seen daily on the news…
Waltz With Bashir is the fragmented recollections of its director Folman – a soldier in the first Israel / Lebanon war of the early ’80s. His friend Boaz Rein-Buskila is suffering flashback dreams in which he is hunted by 26 dogs and from their chat Folman spirals into soul-searching, aching for clarity over events 25 years past.
Old army cohorts are interviewed, a shrink is visited, recurring dreams/nightmares scatter through his brain, but all roads lead to the ’82 massacre at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps by Christian Phalangist forces, an event the Israelis feel complicit over.
This would be fascinating even if shot in the dullest of ways. That Folman and his team storyboarded and redrew all the interviews from scratch, creating a style both hallucinogenic and reverential, turns it into something exceptional. The cartoons are also an ideal counterpoint for the sucker-punch of photography at the end. It’s galling history, uniquely and brilliantly told.
One gripe though is the name. Most Brits wouldn’t know Bashir Gemayel if his ghost came up and slapped them in the face. Maybe 26 Dogs would have got more bums on seats and spread Folman’s message – futility of war as told by ex-soldier – further. Only to the over 18s, of course.
The cert and name suck, but don’t let that put you off. Bashir is history without being hard graft. Immensely moving, the world may stubbornly refuse to move on, but cinema like this can nudge it in the right direction.