Excerpts from A Roundtable Interview With Ari Folman
Director of “Waltz
, Texas , December 8, 2008
Outlook: Was this
AF: Very much so.
Outlook: Were all
the people interviewed real veterans of the Lebanese War, like yourself?
AF: Two of the nine
did not want to be in the film, but wanted their stories told. So
we changed their voices to actors’ voices, and changed their images.
Outlook: Why the
AF: The animation
gave me the freedom to tell the story from one dimension to another;
from reality to dreams to lost memories.
Outlook: In the
Israeli army, the women serve alongside the men, right? Why
were there no female soldiers in the film?
AF: They don’t
fight. They serve, but they’re not sent to the front.
everybody has to serve, right?
AF: Yes, two years
for women and three for the men. But everybody’s
drafted. You know, I’d tried to forget my military
service, but after interviewing all these people, about what they
experienced, it was kind of a relief.
Outlook: Using the
animation, you were able to show full frontal nudity, in a way you can’t
get away with using live actors, and still get an acceptable rating.
Is that part of what offered you the freedom of expression you were
seeking with animation?
AF: I didn’t
think about it.
Outlook: Well, when
the soldiers are coming out of the water with their rifles held above their
heads, for instance..
AF: We used to swim
in the Gulf of Lebanon
naked. All day. So it was only natural
to do it like that. I didn’t think the nudity was a big issue.
Outlook: One of the
things that struck me about this movie was the irony of the Israeli army, if
not committing an atrocity, at least knowing that one went on….you
mentioned the Holocaust
in the movie…
Outlook: I don’t
even know how to ask this question. How did the soldiers
in the Israeli army, given the history of the Holocaust, feel about being
participants in an atrocity themselves?
AF: Well, there was
no disputing the facts of the case. They found Ari
Sharon, and a few of the generals, not taking responsibility to stop the
massacre. Unfortunately, it took three days. He
was removed from his office of Defense Minister for life, but unfortunately
he came back as Prime Minister, as if nothing happened. The
generals were banned as well. But I didn’t waste four
years of my life doing a political investigation. I was
more interested in the common soldier, because I was a common soldier then,
and trying to understand the chronology of the massacre, meaning, how long
does it take to gather enough information to realize there’s a mass murder
going on around the corner? I’ve been asked this
question in a lot in other countries, but not in Israel
at all. Back home, the Holocaust is deep in the DNA of
the country. That’s why there were massive
demonstrations in Tel Aviv after this massacre. The
Israeli soldiers themselves didn’t participate in the massacre…
Outlook: It was the
militia, the Christian Phalangists….
AF: Yes, but still,
being related to the massacre in any sense is not acceptable. This
is why people went out in the streets (to protest). The
biggest demonstration in Israel , ever. And afterwards,
Menachim Begin went into deep depression; he never went out of his home
until the day he died. Just one time: for
his wife’s funeral.
didn’t have the same response?
AF: Sharon can’t
be depressed. But he disappeared for many years, before
he got elected in 2001, nineteen years later. This event
was a turning point in the relationship between the people and the
leadership. Up until then, all wars were survival wars,
just to prevent the Second Holocaust: the Yom
Kippur War, the Six Days’ War…this time it looked completely
Outlook: The Six
Days War was 1967, and the Yom
Kippur was 1973?
Outlook: When I was
in Israel , in the 1990’s, I just got this sense that you were surrounded
by hostiles, and you’re just hanging on by a thread…
AF: Yeah, but you
don’t feel that in everyday life. It looks like that
when you’re here, but when you’re there….it is a free place.
I thought it was a big deal that I was making the first animated
documentary, but I overestimated that fact. It didn’t
help me raise money. The ending was an ideological
decision, not an artistic one. I didn’t want people to
go out thinking, “Oh, that was a nice anti-war
film.” I wanted people to know the reality that
many thousands of innocents died there. This does not
glorify war, or even show the great bravery of soldiers. It
just shows how useless wars are, and how they could have been prevented.
Outlook: I thought
it was courageous of you to tell people about your personal nightmares:
the 26 dogs chasing you. I wonder if it was
cathartic for you; therapeutic in any sense?
AF: Any kind of
filmmaking is therapeutic. I’m not a great believer in
psychotherapy, but this is dynamic therapy: You travel to
these people, you interview them, you write their stories, you shoot it and
edit it, you really live, literally, with this stuff that was buried inside
you. And this is therapy.
Outlook: Do you
find that you have an emotional connection to Lebanon , or to these Lebanese
people, because of your experience?
AF: I don’t know.
I know that I would love to screen the film there. We
are going to have private screenings in Beirut
very soon. There have already been screenings in the West
Bank , and a private one for the King of Jordan. I
know that films cannot change the world, but they can build small bridges
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace
Presbyterian Church, Greenville