“Waltzing With Bashir,” the Israeli film directed by Ari Folman, didn’t win an Academy Award, which in my opinion is all to the good. Here is my brief critique of the film.
Beyond and behind the gravitas and the brilliant use of animation, there is something intensely disturbing and out of kilter. There is an Israeli saying, “Arabs kill Arabs and Jews get blamed,” but I have never heard its variant, “Arabs kill Arabs and Jews should feel guilty.” However, this variant is exactly what Mr. Folman has espoused in his film.
He and his mates were half a mile away from the massacre and only learned of it when it was over. Where is the guilt? Neither he (or for that matter Ariel Sharon) ordered the killing or participated in it. He could have done nothing to prevent it. Feeling bad about it 20 years later, while undoubtedly liberating, sounds suspiciously like that discredited pop-psychology nostrum, recovered memory.
Should Ariel Sharon have known and anticipated that the Phalangists would do exactly what they did? Perhaps. Should he have intervened when it became known what was going on? Certainly, if he had known – even though it was determined in the later investigation that he did not know of the masscre while it was in progress. But why Mr. Folman should interject his and his comrades’ emotions at this late date seems like nothing more than an attempt to exploit a terrible situation in the service of faux-guilt and the golden opportunity to make a “based-on-a-true-story” film.
While there is much to admire in “Waltz With Bashir,” I find it difficult to admire or applaud the guiding principle behind Mr. Folman’s film.