Wow. What a dramatic, extraordinary, shocking film this is. It follows Ari Folman, the director, trying to piece together where he was during the Sabra and Shatila massacre, during the 1982 Lebanon War. He was 19 and serving in the IDF at the time, and in Beirut at the time of the massacre. As we follow him visiting old friends and slowly remembering, we eventually find that he was right there, with the IDF forces who prevented the Palestinians from leaving. The fim ends with real footage of the aftermath of the massacre.
The first thing to say is that the animation, combined with stark, dark lighting, classical music and a mix of realistic and surrealist scenes, is absolutely outstanding- something I’ve never seen before, and judging from the reaction to the movie, something that there hasn’t been before. Secondly, I thought the ending was interesting- was the movement to real scenes from the conflict an admission that the animation didn’t successfully convey the full emotions of the event? I thought it could have stayed in animation and still been hugely powerful. Thirdly, I didn’t know the events of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, the controversy over the involvement of the IDF, or that Ariel Sharon was in part responsible and still managed to forge a career in Israeli politics. In looking back at a past horrific event, one that there seems to have been a conscious effort to forget in Israel, and even in comparing the horror to the role of Nazi prison guards, director Ari Folman has made a bold statement. To me it’s saying the guilt is in standing by, and in forgetting what needs to be remembered. It’s a superb and superbly made piece of cinema.