Waltzing to Hell and Back
The story goes that the only way to clear the mines in the mountainous border region of Sharr in Kosovo after 1999 war for the village men was to take out their cows, walk them on fields where they thought mines were buried, and then see what happens. Well, can you imagine a scene of you walking slowly behind a flock of cows, and after a KA-BOOM! one of them suddenly flies into the air, splattering into red pieces, mooing all the way to cow-hell?
Its hard to imagine this. You know why? I wasnt there, and I havent seen it in a Kosovo film yet.
Or the story of some Albanian guerrilla men, bumped together in a tent after a hard day of being rocked by Serbian army bullets and shells in a battle. In dead of the night, they whisper stories, evolving around their first time with a girl. Stories are usual, except one. One guy, sensing that tomorrow might be his last day, is unusually sincere. He says his first time, his first sexual experience, was with a duck.
These stories are abundant in Kosovo, becoming a thing of legend, mutating into jokes. We have yet to see a Kosovo made film about stories of the young going to fight and their weird day to day experiences. Unfortunately, my sincere guess is that the first big Kosovo film about war will be filled with heroic men and virtuous women assaulting the canons with their wide chests open. As true as this might be, this approach will fast become one-dimensional, sincerely insincere.
Accidentally or intentionally choosing Ari Folmans Waltz with Bashir to be the closing film of Dokufest has its significance with the subject discussed above. Folman has decided to spill his guts on this film, and show soldiers experiences of the 1982 Lebanon war. His previous work did go almost unnoticed, but with his latest film, Forman split the film world about the role of film as a war narrative and therapy, a way to bring the painful subject of war trauma from hidden depths of the subconscious to the individual and national consciousness. Choosing animation was no accident. How else would Forman depict his surreal memories of him witnessing the massacre of Palestinians by the Lebanese Phalangist fighters at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps?
Waltz with Bashir moves from interviews with friends to snippets of memories, each more dreamlike than the other, ranging from devilishly scary group of dogs raging in the streets, to an goddess like huge blue woman carrying a soldier calmly on the sea, while he is watching his friends burn in a bombarded Israeli ship. Smartly choosing the patriotic pop and rock socks of the 80s like the one about bombing Beirut, the film shows what war brings the best and worst in people really means, usually leaning towards the latter. Israeli soldiers are surfing on waves that are being shelled by mortars, no doubt a tribute to Apocalypse Now surfing scene in Vietnam, sunbathing and shooting bottles while lines of Palestians are being systematically slaughtered a hundred meters away.
Waltz with Bashir is about a black spot on Israelis consciousness, a memory they wish they forgot but Folman was courageous to point out. Acting almost like a hypnotherapy, the film blasts all those memories back to the viewer all at once, not begging but commanding remembrance. The craziness of it all. The horror, the horror.
Folmans film shown in Kosovo could be a reminder to filmmakers here to start being sincere with themselves and begin to make films not about some event bigger than though but to begin with their own humble experiences, even about the war ten years ago. So, what about that duck?
This film review is part of "Film Journalism Workshop" implemented by re:Public in partnership with DokuFest