This cartoon is not for children, but it could help humanity.

In September 1982, journalist Ron Ben-Yishai telephoned Ariel Sharon late at night. It was not with good news that he was disturbing Israeli Defense Minister at that hour, moreover, while he was having a rest in his farmhouse. He aimed to notify him that Christian Phalangists, who demanded revenge after the assassination of Lebanon President Bachir Gemayel, might be carrying out a massacre in Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut. Sharon asked the journalist “Did you see the massacre with his own eyes?” “No, I did not, but…”

The massacre at these hours was not “visible” yet, but it was intense enough to be sure that it was there. Christian Phalangists were inside “on duty,” the Israeli army was outside “on watch.”

This is not an ill-timed memory that is told to heat up the Gaza scenario. It is just a scene from the animation-documentary “Waltz with Bashir” from the, born in Haifa, Israeli director Ari Folman. The movie will be at theatres on September6. Inother words, [the movie] is an attempt by a man who says “there is something wrong here,” to make “visible” what he knows, thinks and feels.

The most interesting part of this attempt is its context, which at first sight can be understood as a self-criticism. The whole team of the Israel, France, and German co-production movie is Jewish and majority of them live in Israel. And all of them made a movie that witnesses what the Israeli army did during the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Lebanon’s capital Beirut… Actually, this is the most humane part of that movie.

Folman tells the stories of nine young soldiers (including himself) who entered Lebanon in Summer 1982. Actually he is not telling but presenting an opportunity for them to tell; and of course he provides us with the chance to listen to these stories. To say it directly, “Waltz with Bashir” is actually a documentary. All the characters are real and speak (and dub) for themselves. (Only one story of an old solider is told by his psychologist.) The movie from beginning to end is the product of four years work. Dozens of witness’ stories were collected, scripted and arranged into scenarios by Folman. Then, all its scenes were shot in a studio as a sound video-picture of 96 minutes. This video was given to the animation team to be transformed into a storyboard. Yoni Goodman, the animation director; David Polonsky, who drew 80 percent of the movie (which has 1,720 illustrations) with his own hands, and a decisive team reproduced the film in six months. When the British composer Max Richter completed the soundtrack in four sessions in his studio in Edinburg, the 2 million dollar waltz was ready.

On the website of the movie, Folman says he could not explain anyone at first why he shot a documentary in animation format. Ok, a documentary might seem more realistic than a cartoon for the audience, but why need to be more “realistic”… Both Folman’s stance towards humanity and his being at peace with reality already makes his story, format and intent both convincing enough and “real.” Moreover, using the opportunities that animation presents in the right places, at the right time and with the proper consistency, he pulls his movie to a level of magical reality.

This is all enough for listening Folman and his colleagues. However, a note is needed for those who love movies in accordance to the awards they get: Folman, who took his movie and stood in front of the world in the first year of his journey won 18 awards, including competitions of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, The British Independent Film Awards, and lastly the Golden Globe. Next he will take the test of the Best Foreign Film Oscar. If it were the time of Ancient Greeks or the old Muslim theological schools, it could be said: “You are ready, now go and see the world.” And let the world to see you, may be it will come to its senses.

Feb. 8, 2009, Newsweek Turkiye, Issue 15