Monday, September 21, 2009

[Animation Nation 2009 Prelude] Waltz With Bashir (Vals Im Bashir)


The trouble with memory, is more often than not, over an extended period of time, it tends to be faulty. We recall certain key scenes suspended momentarily in time, but with nary a clue how they move forward or backward, akin to knowing presence of the dots, but lacking the details to connect them up. Traumatic experiences may cause chunks to be buried deep and repressed into the subconscious, leaving behind gaping holes susceptible to imaginary inputs that we might assume to have happened.

Based on the true story of filmmaker Ari Folman, his friend's recurring nightmare of being haunted by exactly 26 hounds, triggered his realization that he cannot remember a thing about his tour of duty as a 19 year old in the 1982 Lebanon war, except for a mysterious bit of memory that has him, and a group of unknowns, emerge from the beach, walking toward some a war-torn city under the illuminated night skies.

Waltz with Bashir is a stunning animated documentary, possibly the first docu that I've seen that's being told in animated form. Ari's story goes about probing and getting more details about his stint, with no memories of his own, and being totally reliant on what others feed him from their perspective. From talking heads styled interviews, events get constructed in piece meal fashion, which provided the Roshomon Effect in technique even, since perspectives are always biased, and again open to inaccuracies.

From the memories of his peers, we see countless of imagery of the war fought, each providing a key eventful piece that suggests Ari himself was present when they took place, from simple ambushes, to what slowly unravelled itself to be the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, controversial for the IDF's inaction to prevent a genocide from happening from under its watch in a refugee camp.

The imagery used in the film, especially the fantasy, escapist sequences, allowed for some distraction away from the stark visuals on the horrors of war, and you'd have a stone cold heart should you not be affected by the senselessness of evil that Man is capable of. What I liked about the animation here is its lighting and keen use of shadows to suggest something bleak, hidden, and sinister. There's also a unique and beautiful style of animation used her that's invented by the "Bridgit Folman Film Gang" studio that combines Flash animation, classic animation and 3D, so those eager to experience something that's new, should make it a point not to miss this.

Winner of the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film 2008, the film also clearly serves a sharp critique against war. For an animated piece, it's hard hitting, challenging, and provocative even in questioning how we tend to be apathetic and do nothing when cruelties unfold right in front of us.

Waltz with Bashir screens at Animation Nation, Singapore's premiere animation film festival, on 17 October (Sat) at 1900hrs, and on 21 October (Wed) at 2100hrs. Click here for ticketing details.

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