The new animated documentary “Waltz with Bashir” raises some interesting points about interviewees and effectively portraying the truth in documentary films.
Director and writer Ari Folman plays himself in the film. After speaking with friend Boaz Rein Buskila, who has a recurring nightmare, Folman, an Israeli military veteran, is stirred to explore what happened when the Israeli army invaded South Lebanon in June 1982. 20 years later, Folman himself cannot gather memories of an Israeli Army mission he took part in during the first Lebanon War.
Interviews are conducted with friends who were there and others involved. This is what can make things tricky.
According to production notes, “Waltz with Bashir took four years from the moment research began until the final cut.” Research was conducted and testimonies were gathered.
While trying to maintain a documentary authenticity, the entire film was shot in a studio.
According to production notes:
“If Ari interviews Carmi in the film inside a car traveling to Holland, the interview with Carmi took place as the two, Carmi and Ari, sat on two adjacent studio chairs while Carmi held a toy steering wheel in his hands.”
A good reason for using a studio was to properly capture audio so viewers won’t be distracted by background noises of on location interviews.
Animators were aided by studio photography and Folman, who directed the documentary and screened the animations.
In this documentary, as in others, interviewees struggle to remember horrific pasts or refuse to have their image fully represented in the film.
Buskila, who drives the documentary refused to have his image in the film. A professional actor dubbed his speech and actions, and his animation is fictitious.
Carmi Can’an, whose voice is also dubbed by an actor, “At the last moment, two days before the first day of filming, Carmi refused to reveal his face in the film,” according to the documentary’s Web site.
All other characters and images are those of the people in real life.
Using this method, stories that need to be told are told. However, lines between what is the truth and what isn’t the truth are blurred. Endless questions about fiction and nonfiction story telling arise. Folman said in an interview, animation allowed him to have freedom to tell this story.
In documentary and all forms of nonfiction, the will of the subject to involve themselves in the project and their memory can be a battle.
What’s evident, is that this documentary might not have been produced in any other way if at all.