An Israeli Soldier’s Memory of War in Lebanon

Ari Folman, the director of this animated movie, was a 19-year-old Israeli soldier in 1982. The Israeli army had invaded Lebanon in order to stop attacks by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). In 1982, the Israelis sent 170,000 soldiers into Lebanon, destroying PLO forces in the south and eventually surrounding Beirut, Lebanon’s capital city.

In 2006, Folman meets with a friend from his army service period, who tells him of the nightmares connected to his experiences from the Lebanon War. Folman is surprised to find that he does not remember a thing from that period.

Later that night Ari Folman has a vision from the night of the massacre that took place at two refugee camps for Palestinian civilians (Sabra and Shantila), the reality of which he is unable to tell.

The massacres resulted when the Lebanese president, Bashir Gemayel was assassinated.  Lebanon is a country of Muslims and Christians.  Gemayel was Christian, and right after his death, the Lebanese army, made up of mostly Christians, entered the two refugee camps and started a bloody revenge against the Muslim Palestinians.

Protests erupted both internationally and in Israel, because although it was the Christian soldiers of the Lebanese army that committed the killings, Israeli forces were in control of the refugee camps at the time of the massacre. Some commentators, and even an Israeli government investigation, said that the Israeli military may have been involved in the incident to a certain extent.

Meanwhile in Ari Folman’s memory of 1982, he and his soldier friends are bathing at night by the seaside in Beirut under the light of flares descending over the capital city of Lebanon. Folman rushes off to meet another friend from his army service, who advises him to discuss it with other people who were in Beirut at the same time in order to understand what happened there and to relive his own memory – and thus, the idea for this movie.

Ari Folman’s animation movie, ‘Waltz with Bashir,’ which took 4 years to create, was released in 2008.  It has won many awards, and even though it covers a controversial subject of how Israeli forces acted in Lebanon, a recent survey poll in Israel showed that ‘Waltz with Bashir’ is the third most-favorite Israeli movie of all time.

Here is the movie trailer for ‘Waltz with Bashir.’ (also available in Mr. Kenney’s StuShare folder)

In this interview with French television, Ari Folman talks about his movie when he presented it for the Cannes Film Festival. What does Folman say is the reason he did his story in animation rather than a historical-fiction drama? And, what does he want young teenagers, especially boys, to get out of his movie? (also available in Mr. Kenney’s StuShare folder)

The film takes its title from a scene in which the commander of Folman’s infantry unit at the time of the film’s events, grabs a light machine gun and “dances an insane waltz” amid heavy enemy fire on a Beirut street festooned with huge posters of Bashir Gemayel, the president-elect of Lebanon in 1982. This is a scene from the movie depicting Folman’s memory and the interview he had with his infantry commander. (also available in Mr. Kenney’s StuShare folder)

Like all Israeli movies, ‘Waltz with Bashir’ has been banned in most Arab nations. However, people are watching the movie, and you might want to find out their opinions, especially those in Lebanon. Here’s a description of the movie from the Arab TV channel, Al Jazeera, which considers itself the only independent news network in the Middle East. What do you note is the difference between Al Jazeera’s description of the movie and the information that came out in the interview on French TV? (also available in Mr. Kenney’s StuShare folder)

The information in this post was excerpted from our booklet, War & Peace in the Middle East (‘War in Lebanon,’ pages 34 – 35), and from Wikipedia. Lots of possible research available with this topic.

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