With Bashir (18)
Written and directed by Ari Folman
Screening at from 21st November
Ari Folman's cinematic journey deep into the recesses of his memory is
a visually beautiful investigation of his life, his motivations, and human
psychology. In the process, he perhaps points a way forward for film and
art in general, away from its current staleness and towards a genuine
coming to terms with the nature of existence.
As a young conscript to the Israeli Defense Forces, Folman took part
in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. The war killed an estimated 18,000 people,
but particularly troubling for Folman was his role in the Sabra and Shatila
massacre, where Lebanese Christian Phalangist militias were - with the
approval and support of the Israeli state - allowed into Palestinian refugee
camps, where they slaughtered thousands of civilians. This would be distressing
enough for anyone to have on their mind, except for the fact that Folman
literally couldn't remember anything about the event until the last few
years. “That’s not stored in my system,” he said. Actually
it was, but retrieving it was another matter.
Folman's attempt to grasp the reality of his time in Lebanon is the foundation
of this film. He conducted a series of interviews with his fellow conscripts,
drawing on the fragments of their memories to piece together his own story.
This subtitled Hebrew dialogue was then animated, with the hallucinatory
cartoons giving an air of unreality to the all-too-real events described.
The overall effect of this is intensely humanitarian. Folman is haunted
by the small but significant part he played in Palestinian deaths, and
for many years he has buried his memories deep, the better to get on with
his life. More recent events - perhaps the Iraq war or the 2006 Israeli
invasion of Lebanon - have caused him to seek explanations, to put things
into context. By coming to terms with Israel's complicity with the Phalangists,
he can begin to forgive himself for not intervening to save the lives
of the refugees.
Perhaps even more importantly than that, this kind of reckoning holds
lessons for anyone who cares to take notice. "This makes you wonder",
Folman speculated in an interview, "maybe I am doing all this for
my sons. When they grow up and watch the film, it might help them make
the right decisions, meaning not to take part in any war, whatsoever.”
Memories, by definition, can never be exact replicas of the original
events. They are coloured and shaped by the experiences that follow. However,
this is a strength, not a weakness, allowing for personal and collective
growth. As the global crisis intensifies, more buried memories will no
doubt be unearthed by people examining the beliefs and ideas which once
guided their lives. What else is stored in our systems?