Frank Israeli film examines 1982 Beirut massacres

Thu May 15, 2008 11:47am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

CANNES, France (Reuters) - A daring new animated documentary follows Israeli director Ari Folman as he tries to piece together memories of the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in Beirut's Sabra and Shatila camps.

Folman was a soldier in the Israeli army when it invaded Lebanon earlier that year. It allowed Christian militiamen into the refugee camps and stood by as they went on a killing spree shortly after the assassination of their leader, Bashir Gemayel.

In "Waltz With Bashir," in competition at the Cannes film festival this year and screening as Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary, a soldier among those surrounding the camps witnesses the execution of a family by militiamen.

It also features a reporter describing a telephone conversation he had with Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon about rumors he was hearing of the massacre.

Sharon, who resigned as defense minister after a 1983 Israeli inquiry found he bore indirect responsibility for the killings, takes no action.

"Waltz With Bashir" is built around a series of animated reconstructions of real-life interviews Folman conducted with friends and fellow soldiers from the time, as he seeks to remember what his role was in the atrocity.

It portrays young draftees fighting in Lebanon, during which many were killed or wounded, and the dreams and hallucinations that many had more than 20 years after the event.

The only non-animation footage is a short sequence at the end showing news photographs of the bodies of men, women and children lying in the streets of the camps after the killings.   Continued...

<p>Israeli director Ari Folman poses during a photocall for his animated film entry "Waltz With Bashir" at the 61st Cannes Film Festival May 15, 2008. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>