“Talk, don’t shoot” – Ari Folman’s Antiwar Film
Ari Folman’s animated documentary film, “Waltz With Bashir” is making headlines—and not just because it’s a darn good piece of filmmaking. As Deborah Solomon points out in her interview with Folman, the doc smacks of irony: Folman’s soi desant “antiwar movie” is doubly resonant if you consider the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza. Solomon dubbed Folman “The Peacemaker,” but he told an audience at the Arclight Saturday night that he doesn’t believe film can change the world.
The headlines coming out of Gaza have lent added relevance to your new film, “Waltz With Bashir,” which uses the unlikely form of animation to piece together a nuanced account of your experiences in the 1982 Lebanon War.
It will always be up-to-date because something will always happen again.
You mean the prospect for peace seems so remote? That’s sad.
But it’s true.
You were a 19-year-old soldier at the time of the massacre of Palestinians by Lebanese Christian Phalangists in two refugee camps in West Beirut. Where were you during that 72-hour rampage?
We were nearby, a half a mile away, and we realized what happened just after it ended, while women were running hysterically out of the camps.
The film can be described as the Israeli “Slaughterhouse-Five.”
Yes, more than anything else, I see it as an antiwar movie.
One tends to think of Israel as a country where survivalist imperatives do not allow for much antiwar sentiment.
Israelis are divided, definitely, but I think you hear too much of the louder voices that always justify any kind of act of aggression. But there is a very big crowd of people who are fed up with war. I can’t understand the word “war” anyhow.
What can’t you understand?
I can’t understand people killing each other for a piece of land. Can you understand that?
All this offers a sharp contrast with the glamorized image of Jewish soldiers depicted a half-century ago in a novel like “Exodus,” by Leon Uris. Have you read it?
It’s a must-read in Israel, and the film with Paul Newman is a must-film.
Israel’s founding generation didn’t seem to harbor ambivalence about war.
They were survival wars. They were about the existence of the country, and they were influenced tremendously by the Holocaust. But the Lebanon War had nothing to do with survival.
It was a military exception?
It was not an exception. It was a turning point in the relationship between the Israeli leadership and the people, who realized for the first time that war can be declared just for political reasons.
Ariel Sharon would disagree.
What went through Sharon’s head in 1982? Only he knows.
Were you interested in film as a child?
No, not really. I was interested in football and rock ’n’ roll and girls. As a child I played the clarinet, a nice Jewish instrument.
Your parents were Holocaust survivors?
They met in the Lodz ghetto in Poland when they were 16. They married four years later on Aug. 18, 1944. The next morning, during the liquidation of the ghetto, they were evacuated to Auschwitz.
How old were you when you learned of their past?
The moment I understood Hebrew.
You were one of the original writers on “In Treatment,” the Israeli show set in a psychiatrist’s office that was adapted by HBO.
You know the show? There is an Israeli pilot traumatized by his experiences dropping a bomb that killed 14 kids. In the American version, it was adapted to Iraq.
Will he be returning for the second season?
No, he committed suicide.
I’m sorry. Couldn’t you save him?
No. I’m not a great believer in psychotherapy.
Have you been analyzed?
I’ve been analyzed way too much.
The problem with therapy is that you’re listening to no one but yourself. How can you learn anything?
That’s a very good sentence. Can I use it from now on, as if I invented it?
It’s yours, and no one will ever know. Do you find that talk is more effective in matters of war and diplomacy?
Yes. I think you should always ask yourself: has everything been done to prevent the conflict? Talk, don’t shoot. Talk.