BEIRUT: An organisation in Lebanon held a private screening of the Oscar-nominated Israeli anti-war film “Waltz with Bashir” despite a controversial law in Lebanon banning Israeli movies. The critically acclaimed film by Ari Folman is banned under a Lebanese law that forbids trade with Israel. Driven by a huge interest in the film in Lebanon,...
BEIRUT: An organisation in Lebanon held a private screening of the
Oscar-nominated Israeli anti-war film “Waltz with Bashir” despite a
controversial law in Lebanon banning Israeli movies.
The critically acclaimed film by Ari Folman is banned under a Lebanese law that forbids trade with Israel.
Driven by a huge interest in the film in Lebanon, UMAM, the
organisation behind the screening, obtained a copy from a German distributor and held the underground screening in January in the Hezbollah stronghold of Beirut's southern suburb.
The organisation aims to preserve the country's memories of war by
screening movies related to its decades of bloodshed.
Monika Borgmann, director of UMAM, said 30 people were invited to the screening but 90 people ended up attending in the end due to the popularity of the film.
“So as the film had already made lot of noise — I mean there was
a lot in the press about this film, the film has been in Cannes, and it has just won the Golden Globe, it was nominated for the Oscar… Our friends brought their friends and so in the end we ended up to be 90 people,” said Borgmann.
The title “Waltz with Bashir” conveys Israel's alliance with
Lebanon's Christian leader at the time, Bashir Gemayel. The film 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.
Director Ari Folman said the film has been well received in Israel. “Israel as you know is a complex country, full of controversy,
within the society. And a lot of people that are mainly very — how would I
call it, middle or right wing they adore the film still,” said Folman.
Despite the controversies surrounding the film, “Waltz with
Bashir” is widely considered the Oscar foreign-language front-runner
after winning a Golden Globe earlier this month and being named the best movie
of 2008 by the National Society of Film Critics in the United States.
Pirated DVD copies now sell for 2 U.S. dollars each in Beirut's Hamra district, which features in the film as the site of fierce battles between Folman's army unit and Palestinian guerrillas.
UMAM find Lebanon's ban on the film deplorable.
“I am very sorry to talk about a Lebanese law that even the
culture minister describes as backwards. Therefore I refuse to comment about this law. How can I comment about a law whose enforcers themselves say is backwards.” Lokman Slim , UMAM's activist and Borgmann's husband,
Against a narrative based on buried recollections of former
brothers-in-arms, Folman, who was a 19-year-old conscript at the time, shows war in the nightmarish colours of a comic book — until the final moments when it shockingly culminates with actual footage of piles of dead bodies.
The movie has been hailed as depicting the harsh realities of war in
“I mean then I get criticised in that area as well, saying it is
an anti-zionistic film. And then from the left wing we got criticism, so, you can't please everybody. Honestly, I don't care. Once the film is screening it is not up to me anymore,” said Folman.
The film shows how some 600 Palestinian women, children and old people were slaughtered in the refugee camps under the light of flares fired over Beirut by Folman's army unit, ordered to help the Christian Phalangist militia secure the area.
“I think people were very moved, I mean I remember the film
finished and there was silence. Really there was silence. Then people started to go out, some of them had tears in their eyes, they thanked us,” said Borgmann.
The Sabra and Shatila massacre prompted a world outcry, and in Israel a commission of inquiry found then-defence minister Ariel Sharon indirectly responsible, forcing him to resign.
It said Sharon, who later went on to become prime minister, ignored
warnings that the Phalangists would massacre Palestinian refugees to avenge the killing of hundreds of Christian civilians by Palestinian guerrillas in southern Lebanon six years earlier.
Israel launched the operation in June 1982 to fend off attacks against its northern towns by Palestinian guerrillas led by late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who had turned war-torn Beirut into a base for attacks on Israel.
Israel hoped to end the war and seal a peace treaty with Gemayel. But the plan was sabotaged by Syria, which had Gemayel assassinated on September 14, 1982. -REUTERS