Israeli anti-war Oscar bid draws Arabs despite ban

Tue Feb 3, 2009 11:39am EST
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By Joseph Nasr

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - You can't see "Waltz with Bashir" legally in Lebanon but you can buy copies of the Oscar-nominated Israeli anti-war film in Beirut's Hamra district where director Ari Folman saw his life change 26 years ago.

"It's one of the greatest films I've ever seen," said Lokman Slim, an activist with Lebanon's UMAM organization which aims to preserve the country's memories of war by screening movies related to its decades of bloodshed.

"I feel jealous that those we should consider our enemies have the courage to revisit events in which they were involved, while we Lebanese are in an endless silence regarding our history," Lokman told Reuters in Beirut.

"Waltz with Bashir" -- the title conveys Israel's alliance with Lebanon's Christian leader at the time, Bashir Gemayel -- mixes documentary and animation to depict the trauma of an Israeli invasion 26 years ago to expel Palestinian guerrillas.

The film ends with the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians by Israel's Lebanese Christian allies in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps of Beirut.

Against a narrative based on buried recollections of former brothers-in-arms, Folman shows war in the nightmarish colors of a comic book -- until the final moments when it shockingly culminates with actual footage of piles of dead bodies.

Some 600 Palestinian women, children and old people in Sabra and Shatila were slaughtered under the light of flares fired over Beirut by Folman's army unit, ordered to help the Christian Phalangist militia secure the camps.

Folman was a 19-year-old conscript at the time. His movie has won a Golden Globe for best foreign language film of 2008 and was nominated last month for an Oscar for 'best foreign film'   Continued...

<p>A scene from the Israeli film "Waltz with Bashir" is seen in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters January 22, 2009. REUTERS/Sony Pictures Classics/Handout</p>