The Israeli film industry has proved its high quality but again. This animated movie is jarring and totally absorbing. Already having won a Golden Globe, it is very likely to be a prime candidate for an Academy Award.
The title refers to Bashir Gemayel, the leader of the Christian Falangist party and militia, whose assassination, just as he becomes president of Lebanon, sparks the massacre of 800 or more Palestinians.
The filmmaker, 45 year-old Ari Folman, creator of the television series, “BeTipul,” the model for HBO’s “In Treatment,” delves into his own psychology and that of fellow veterans of the first Lebanon war in 1982. It is a film that reopens a dark chapter in Israel’s history at the very moment that the Gaza war marks a new sad episode in the ongoing military conflict of Israel with its Arab neighbors. But it is more anti-war than anti-Israel. In fact, the Israeli government has seized upon this film as a pro-Israel instrument (related in this JTA article, excerpted below):
“I thought people would call it a left-wing anti-Zionist film and that didn’t happen,” he said. “And more than that, the film became the darling of the
The Israeli response, according to Folman, was positive for two reasons: It made Israel look like a tolerant country, allowing soldiers to talk openly about their experiences in the war, and when it was screened in Europe it made many people there realize for the first time that it wasn’t the Israeli troops that committed the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres.
“They didn’t pull the trigger; it was the Christian regime,” Folman said. “And this is the type of propaganda the Israeli government couldn’t buy for money. So they kept sending the movie out.”
The refugee camps were in Lebanese territory under Israeli control, but the attacks were carried out by Lebanese Christian fighters allied with Israel. An Israeli investigative commission following the massacres found that though Israeli officials did not have a hand in organizing the massacres, which left at least hundreds dead, they bore indirect responsibility for failing to anticipate the violence and allowing
the Christian fighters into the camps.
Then-defense minister Ariel Sharon resigned his post as a result.