Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, December 19, 2008

We may forget the past, but the past won't forget us

Tonight I saw Waltz With Bashir, an Israeli animated documentary about....well,, about the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon; about the effect of war on teenaged soldiers; about memory - what we remember, what we forget, what we remember that didn't happen; and about the massacres in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps. It's a very powerful film, and has a lot of memorable scenes, especially the opening which is a dream sequence with 26 ravenous dogs hunting someone (and which is genuinely frightening). There's also a memorable bit with an Israeli tank making its way up a Beirut side-street over the top of all the parked cars, which it crushes flat like drinks cans.

I was interested to read some other reviews, because I wondered whether a lot of Israelis - and non-Israeli supporters - might find the film uncomfortable. It makes it very clear that while the actual massacre in the camps was carried out by Christian (ha!) militias, a lot of Israeli soldiers realised what was happening. However, when they reported it to their superiors, nothing happened. Meanwhile, their colleagues were assisting the Phalangists by firing flares. So the IDF (and Ariel Sharon) don't come out of it well. For all that the film is sympathetic towards the inexperienced and terrrified new recruits, almost the the first we see of them in action is them pouring down fire in a panic on a car which turns out to have contained a civilian family.

One of the commenters on this review is an Israeli who reacted as I'd expected, but mostly they liked the film. (See here for example.) I thought this review was interesting because it was written from a Lebanese perpective, and most of the reviewer's companions felt the film let the Israeli forces off lightly over complicity in the genocide.

I just saw what may well be the film's last screening in Edinburgh for some time, but if you get the chance to see it I recommend it.


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