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Feature Film

Waltz with Bashir, An Animated War Documentary

Waltz with Bashir

While DreamWorks debuted its umpteenth cookie-cutter ‘hip’ animal comedy, Kung Fu Panda, at the Cannes Film Festival this past week, it’s another animated feature that’s been making big waves at the French festival, one that actually uses to its advantage the art form’s vast potential. Waltz with Bashir is only the second animated feature ever produced in Israel. Directed and written by Ari Folman, it is a documentary about the 1982 massacre at the Shatila and Sabra Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, recounted through first-hand accounts from soldiers who participated in the war.

The film, which incorporates a medley of cel, Flash, CG and live-action, has been gaining raves since its debut including write-ups in Cinematical, NY Times and Time magazine. GreenCine also has a nice roundup of coverage for the film. What the film may lack in the animation quality and polish that we are accustomed to in stateside features, it seems to make up for with its ambition and dedication towards using the medium to create something that is actually meaningful and relevant to our times. Below is the film trailer followed by an excerpt from the film. (Thanks, Yoni Salmon, for the tip)

UPDATE: Just noticed that CHF also wrote about the film this morning. They have a link to the film’s official website which has production notes that say the film took four years to produce at a cost of $2 million.

  • Randy

    WOW! That looks simply amazing. Thanks for posting, Amid!

  • red pill junkie

    I second the gratitude. This is definitely a movie I will have to see.

    Although the chances of coming to Mexico are slim, if not null :-(

  • FP

    That is beautiful. It looks like the logical extension of the 1960s JONNY QUEST style – budget-conscious, yet making best use of available techniques. It has sort of a GHOST IN THE SHELL/ASSY MCGEE combo feel, too. This kind of stuff is actually more appealing (to me, anyway) than TREASURE PLANET/SPIRIT/SINBAD/etc.

  • William Goodrich

    An animated feature with a brain. It’s about time.

  • Wow! That was awesome… I agree with FP, it looks like Johnny Quest grown up… that mixed in with a comic. Great stuff. Anyone know if it’ll come to the states or if there’s info on how it was made, budget etc? I’d love to actually see it. the only way I got to see Persepolis was from ASIFA sending it to me.

  • Excellent. I can’t wait for the sequel — you know, about the 1985 massacre at the Shatila and Burj-el Barajneh Palestinian refugee camps. I understand it’s coming right on the heels of the Dreamworks animated feature on the life of the Marquis deSade!

  • That looks like a cross between American Pop and Waking Life.

  • Films like this are among the reasons why I got into this business in the first place. There’s so much that can be said about the human condition, and so many ways to say it…why not hand-craft it?

    Thanks for posting this.

  • Charles Davidson

    If it seems like “Jonny Quest” then Adult Swim will rip it off and inject it with “fresh” ‘tude within the next five seconds.

  • It looks like a serious work, but one negative indicator is the continuous voice-over narration in the second clip. I can’t judge the whole film on it but the the story seems as if it is primarily being told verbally with just a small visual assist. If a major studio did that, you’d see posts here decrying it as “illustrated radio”.

    I don’t think this is very Jonny Quest-like. Jonny Quest didn’t rely on narration like this does.

    On the plus side, this should be an easy film to dub in to other languages; hopefully that will happen for a US release so we can appraise it more fairly.

  • Was there also rotoscoping involved in this film? Looks like it…
    Anyway, if so, I guess this looks pretty cool together with the mashup of different kinds of techniques.

  • Steve Gilula-Wentworth

    Some of the figures move with the same sluggish motion as the crowds in Disney’s “Pocahontas” feature. Hopefully in the film itself Folman was able to break up such a potentially deadening steadiness.

  • Barbara_in_BC

    So glad the 1982 massacre in the Palestinian refugee camps is finally being revisited and with such effective animation. Ronald Reagan’s partly to blame, the American force he sent to protect the camps from harm were withdrawn just a few days before the Sabra and Shatilla massacre of undefended women and children. Ariel Sharon led the charge against undefended Palestinian refugees which is why he’s called “The Beast of Beirut”. Ronald Reagan played his part as well.

  • Well I guess i’m not the first to go,”looks like Jonny Quest!” though in all fairness, the correct exclamation is “looks like Doug Wildey artwork!”

  • Barbara_in_BC

    Ooops, I got the term wrong. Ariel Sharon is called “The Butcher of Beirut” for his role as the Minister of War during the 1982 Lebanon attack. The samples of animation here have quiet power.

  • It’s a powerful work & beautifully crafted. It uses the medium of animation to full advantage. Similar to WAKING LIFE yes but infinitely more involving. Could this & the Chicago 10 film constitute a new genre of animated documentary?

  • yvette kaplan

    Absolutely beautiful. Thank you Amid. And yes, there is definitely some rotoscope in the first clip– perfect place for it, very effective and haunting. As for release, I think it is at least playing in NY right now– or opening soon. Hopefully other cities as well. I’m sure it will be.

  • Chuck R.

    I know a lot of animation fans are eager to see their medium “grow up” and deal with serious subject matter, and you can count me among them. But if animators are going to treat history, I hope we’re all ready to hold them to the same standards that live-action filmmakers are held.

    Persepolis is a case in point. I enjoyed the film, but was disappointed at how little it really said about the Iranian Revolution. I don’t remember a mention of Khomeini by name or the role that President Carter and the communist factions in Iran played in his ascent to power. Nothing about the hostage crisis either. I remember a coming-of-age film set against the backdrop of the revolution. Not that this is bad, but there just wasn’t a great deal of depth. Critics didn’t seem to care. They were too busy gushing about how animation was “growing up”.

    Now suddenly this comes up (strangely coinciding with the 6oth anniversary of the creation of modern Israel) and animation fans are saying things like “An animated feature with a brain. It’s about time.” (How do you know?”) and throwing out very odd praise (when did “Jonny Quest” and “Waking Life” become benchmarks of the art?) Now I find that rotoscoping suddenly is using the medium to full advantage and Ronald Reagan is to blame for the massacre!

    Like robcat above, I’m hoping to see this, and I hope it’s a great film and an honest account. I hope it inspires other filmmakers to take on more serious subject matter. Above all, I hope it inspires everyone to at least read the wikipedia article on the event.

  • Barbara_in_BC

    Chuck R: Your disappointment with Persepolis is misplaced, as it was a personal memoir not a political one. And the wikipedia article you linked to has been altered to omit America’s responsibility for the slaughter. What happened is that Reagan sent Philip Habib over to convince the PLO menfolk to leave the camps, with the promise that American marines would guard their families from harm for at least one month. But although Arafat trusted the Americans to be honest, the Marines took off too soon, flying a Mission Accomplished banner on the ship! And lo and behold, someone assassinated someone important called Bashir in Lebanon and blamed it on the Palestinians and the slaughter by Christian Phalangists began. With Ariel Sharon and his men guarding the perimeter of the refugee camps. Reagan apologized, but of course he was an actor wasn’t he?


  • Steve Gattuso

    Assuming this film makes the art house circuit in the US, I shall have to make a point of watching it. Interesting techniques, and appropriate for the subject of the film.

  • Jeff

    Is this the first time a PiL song has ever been used in a film trailer?

  • JustMe

    To robcat2075:
    The movie is actually a documenary. the animation was used to illustrate the stories being told by the people who were interviewed.
    So of course it’s going to sound like a voice-over narration. Except for 2 characters in the film, all were drawn as they look in real life. 2 people asked not to be recorded/filmed and their testimony was read by someone else and their faces altered in the film. Here’s another link: Ari Folman explaining his film in an intreview (in english):