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Ari Folman
ARI FOLMAN, a Tel Aviv–based filmmaker, wrote, produced, and directed the animated documentary Waltz with Bashir. His two previous feature films, Saint Clara and Made in Israel, both received numerous Israeli academy awards, among them best film and best director for Saint Clara, which also won the People’s Choice Award at the 1996 Berlin Film Festival. In addition, he produces and writes for television, including for the Israeli series In Treatment, which was remade in the United States for HBO.

David Polonsky
DAVID POLONSKY was the art director and chief illustrator for the animated film Waltz with Bashir. His illustrations have appeared in every major Israeli daily and magazine. He has created animated short films for Israeli television, received multiple awards for his children’s book illustrations, and teaches at Bezalel, Israel’s prestigious art academy.


Praise For The Movie

"An altogether amazing film... Not only unique but also exemplary, a work of astonishing aesthetic integrity and searing moral power."—The New York Times

"A movie so unusual that it overflows any box in which you try to contain it... What I liked about Waltz with Bashir is that it confronts so much and resolves so little. You come out feeling more troubled in mind than when you went in, and with considerable scarring to your mind's eye."—The New Yorker

"Stunning ...Might be the year's most singular visionary experience available at the movies."—Salon

"Provocative, hallucinatory, incendiary, this devastating animated documentary is unlike any film you've seen, period.... Told with dynamic energy, these stories unnerve you in ways more conventional footage simply would not."—Los Angeles Times

"Arresting... A striking example of filmmaking used to explore the inner recesses of a filmmaker's own conscience."—Chicago Tribune

"Broodingly original... A grim, deeply personal phantasmagoria."—Village Voice

"Even the most lambent passages have a feverish urgency... It has taken an animated film to go where live-action dramas and even documentaries haven't-to tickle our synapses and slip into our bloodstream."—New York Magazine

"An absolute stunner... The force of moving drawings amplifies eerily powerful accounts of war, shaky remembrance and rock-solid repression."—The Wall Street Journal

"A potent and profound document of war and its aftermath... The movie grips you and won't let go.... Get ready to be knocked for a loop."—Rolling Stone

"Exemplary... The message of the futility of war has rarely been painted with such bold strokes.... A haunting, cleansing experience... Waltz with Bashir should touch all those who see it."—Time

"An animated documentary that scrambles your notions of what animation, and documentary, can be... The images of war that Ari Folman and his chief illustrator, David Polonsky, conjure up have a feverish, infernal beauty... These depictions of the dementia of war have a hallucinatory power that can stand alongside those of Apocalypse Now... Unforgettable."—Newsweek

"A powerhouse film… The animation initially works as something of a distancing device, giving you the space — intellectual, emotional — to process the story and its accumulating horrors. The fluidity of the figures accentuates the air of surreality — one soldier compares war to an acid trip — which deepens as the story reaches its terrible end. The finale is stunning, at once a furious act of conscience and a lament."—Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

"Waltz with Bashir will leave its mark forever on the ethics of war films in general…. Although there are no new elements of that terrible event revealed here for the first time, the context in which they are put is sufficient to deliver a fearful wallop."—Screen

"The subject… is transmuted via novel use of animation into something special, strange and peculiarly potent. Surreal touches, deployed with tactical restraint, make Waltz with Bashir extraordinary."—Variety

"A film which resonates to the true, real experience of every soldier and to the current experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, Waltz with Bashir is brilliant."—Facets Multi-Media

"Waltz With Bashir is an extraordinary, harrowing, provocative picture. We staggered out of the screening in a daze."—The Guardian (UK)

"A provocative and wholly adult tour de force."—Boston Herald

"Folman has fashioned something artistically unique and expressive. The imagery is at once beautifully drawn, vivid, and disturbing… This deeply compelling film documents the horrors to which Folman and his friends were witnesses, while offering hope that he and others might, some day, heal from the ravages of war. While it’s too much to hope that this or any film might have an impact in the real world that could put an end to mankind’s capacity to hurt one another, films like Waltz with Bashir offer us the opportunity to learn about and from history."—Cinematic USA

"Persepolis meets Full Metal Jacket in Ari Folman’s powerful and original animated war film."—Globe and Mail (Canada)

"Waltz with Bashir is animated history, much like Persepolis or Joe Sacco’s graphic novels… This strong, strong work leads the audience slowly closer to the massacre until the final, stunning moments almost erupt from the screen."—Boston Globe

"Dredging up these dreadful memories may have been therapeutic for the men involved, but the point of Waltz With Bashir is bigger than that.… It is a remarkable, haunting, and intense work, quite unlike any animated film I’ve ever seen."—Salon

"Waltz With Bashir is about the cold fingers of memory that clutch the heart. Folman’s exemplary film says that only by exposing the wounds can they begin to heal. The message of the futility of war has rarely been painted with such bold strokes."—Time

"A major revelation… An animation that is visually bold and politically combustible, it’s based on the director’s own experiences as a draftee soldier. This theme of amnesia, as well as the film’s stylish and consistently inventive animation, recalls Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly as much as it does last year’s Persepolis.… An unforgettable portrait of lost innocence."—Daily Telegraph (UK)

"Powerful… Waltz with Bashir combines the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who fought in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon with brilliant animation and documentary footage in a unique and original manner."—Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt)

"Poised strangely—possibly uniquely—between confessional animation and documentary investigation, Waltz with Bashir explores the director’s own experience as an Israeli soldier in Lebanon. That Folman chooses to depict his quest in impressionistic, often dream-like animation makes the film all the more personal, and gives it the urgency of a true cri de coeur."—The Independent (UK)

"An innovative, powerful moral essay."—J. Hoberman, The Village Voice
















































































































































Waltz With Bashir

“Special, strange, and peculiarly potent... Extraordinary.” —Variety

One night in Beirut in September 1982, while Israeli soldiers secured the area, Christian militia members entered the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and began to massacre hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians. Ari Folman was one of those Israeli soldiers, but for more than twenty years he remembered nothing of that night or of the weeks leading up to it. Then came a friend’s disturbing dream, and with it Folman’s need to excavate the truth of the war in Lebanon and answer the crucial question: what was he doing during the hours of slaughter?

Challenging the collective amnesia of friends and fellow soldiers, Folman painfully, candidly pieces together the war and his place in it. Gradually, the blankness of his mind is filled in by scenes of combat and patrol, misery and carnage, as well as dreams and hallucinations. Soldiers are haunted by inexplicable nightmares and flashbacks—snapping, growling dogs with teeth bared and eyes glowing orange; a recurring image of three young men rising naked out of the sea to drift into the Beirut battlefield. Tanks crush cars and buildings with lethal indifference; snipers pick off men on donkeys, men in cars, men drinking coffee; a soldier waltzes through a storm of bullets; rock songs fill the air, and then yellow flares. The recollections accumulate until Ari Folman arrives at Sabra and Shatila and his investigation reaches its terrible end.

The result is a gripping reconstruction, a probing inquiry into the unreliable quality of memory, and, above all, a powerful denunciation of the senselessness of all wars. Profoundly original in form and approach, Waltz with Bashir will take its place as one of the great works of wartime testimony.


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Interview with Ari Folman & David Polonsky

How did the book Waltz with Bashir come about?

Ari Folman: The project began as a movie, of course, but the film was more influenced by graphic novels than anything else I’ve seen. I’m a big fan of graphic novels, and books in general were on my mind throughout the whole process, especially Catch 22, Slaughterhouse Five, and The Adventures of Wesley Jackson—novels by writers who’d experienced war and then taken a step back to look at it in an ironic, funny way. So the book version always seemed obvious to me and we worked on both simultaneously.

From early on, people kept saying that the frames looked graphic novel-ish, probably because the movie’s naturalistic and expressive style created a graphic novel-ish visual world. And the story, the subject itself, was a natural as a graphic novel. With Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Joe Sacco’s work, and the amazing stuff done about Bosnia and the siege of Sarajevo, comics became a really effective way of merging journalism, history, and personal experience. 

How is the experience of reading the book different from seeing the movie?

David Polonsky: The role of the viewer changes in an interesting way. In the cinema, as a filmmaker, you own the audience, but with a book it’s completely reversed. You’re at the mercy of the reader, who can close the book at any moment. To say it differently, the book puts the story into the reader’s hands while in the movie theater the viewer is in the hands of the storyteller. So the job of keeping the reader’s attention is more of a challenge. Also, I’d say that in the graphic novel the story is tighter, we were able to present the historical facts more clearly, and the panels, without the special effects of the movie process, are more detailed and refined.

And the audience’s relationship to it is different. The pace of the book allows for a better grasp of the nuances and a more reliable transfer of information. Reading a graphic novel, you’re not in danger of losing track of the story and you have time to pause over the panels and take in details that otherwise fly by. Another thing is that in the book the drawings are able to stand as art in their own right, and you see how much of the story they carry. Both the illustrations and the reader’s mind get to play a larger role.

Can you give some examples of how the illustrations work to drive home the themes of the story?

David Polonsky: Well, Waltz deals with memory and what it does with the past. The actual events in Lebanon happened, but memory suppressed them or turned them into nightmares or fantasies. It’s not clear to the characters what’s real and what’s memory, and we tried to make the drawings a bit like that by creating an uncertain feeling of whether the viewer is looking at a photograph or a drawing. We depicted places that are real, like Beirut and Tel Aviv, and worked in backgrounds that seem very photographic but are in fact drawn. So the reader is looking at something unreliable, which is much the same way that memory works.

And then there’s the use of color. There’s one specific orange tone that’s used throughout the story. It’s the orange of night flares, which produces a very artificial and alarming atmosphere. Living close to war, you get to see flares, and I know that eerie orange look—it’s not a warm glow but a chemical burn. Flares are at the heart of Ari’s memories, real and distorted, and so the color appears intermittently until the orange takes over in the final scenes. The effect is not intended as something for the reader to decipher—it’s subliminal.

Why illustration? Why tell this story with comics and animation?

Ari Folman: It gave us total freedom to do whatever we liked. We could go from one dimension to another, from real events to the subconscious to dreams to hallucinations. It gave us the liberty to play with vastly different elements in one fluid story line, with no boundaries, and also to make something visually familiar and tired—war scenes—look entirely new.

In terms of the drawings, what was the biggest challenge?

David Polonsky: The illustrations had to have a sense of truthfulness. I couldn’t pretend I was showing things exactly as they were, although there had to be the ring of authenticity. But I had no references for a lot of the scenes—like the one where Ari is in the Beirut air terminal, for example. Besides the fact that as an Israeli I can’t go to Beirut, the building itself was demolished and rebuilt. So I had no idea what the inside looked like. But there were some references to work with: the scene took place in the 1980s and the building was from the 1930s, and there was Ari and the impression that all this European modernist splendor would have made on him as a young soldier. We collected old posters for Lebanese airline companies, and those details made their way into the panels.

For the characters, it was crucial that they shouldn’t be too stylized or caricatured. It would have been much easier if we could have exaggerated some of the features, but the drawing had to be kind of humble. I couldn’t intrude in the drawings with any kind of showmanship because the story was the most important thing.

The story is Ari’s, and very personal, but it’s drawn by David. How did you work together?

Ari Folman: We went through a lengthy process with many conversations about what we were creating. At first, David found it difficult to take something so intimate, something that came from me, and draw it. I think it’s pretty rare that an illustrator inhabits someone else’s history for three years of his life. It was hard for me, too, because I can’t draw, and that limitation meant I really had to put myself in someone else’s hands.

David Polonksy: For me, the difficulty was creating the young Ari of the 1980s, someone I didn’t know. There were very few photographs of that period. I had to come up with someone who combined rebelliousness with conformity and a certain innocence. A boy but not a boy; a rebel but not a rebel. There’s something intriguing about that. Ari didn’t accept the rules of his surrounding framework—and he’s still like that—but he nevertheless became an army officer. So I gave him a nonstandard haircut and left him unshaven, which is pretty unusual in the army.

Ari Folman: My mother says he didn’t make me handsome enough. And in the present-day drawings, David had to change my hair color all the time—it kept getting grayer. Seriously, David’s gigantic achievement is to have captured my character at nineteen years old. I felt no connection to that person and only became reacquainted with my younger self through David’s portrayal, which was of genuine psychological help to me. He found something very true that allowed me to absorb and understand myself at that age correctly. David opened my eyes. He found in me the dissonance between a constant attempt to defy norms and the fact that I was totally part of the mainstream. In the army I was the real thing, hard core: an officer in a combat unit.

I’m sure there are people who are skeptical of your claim not to have remembered anything from 1982.

Ari Folman: It wasn’t that I didn’t remember anything at all, I didn't have total amnesia.  I had the main story-line of my army service, but there were big black holes. Those holes were the reason why I took my Waltz with Bashir journey. I think I worked very hard to suppress those memories, deliberately choosing to forget. When I was released from the army I cut off all ties with the people who were there with me, which is pretty unusual in Israel. And I think the massacre itself was easily erased because we didn’t actually witness what happened in the camps.

Is that why you chose to end Waltz with Bashir with documentary photographic images of the massacre in Sabra and Shatila?

Ari Folman: No, that’s not the reason. I just didn’t want anyone to put this down thinking that the drawings are great, even if they are. I want people to understand that the massacre really happened. Thousands of people were killed, most of them children, old people, civilians. It puts my story in proportion and perspective. It had to be done.

There are many other parts of Waltz that are raw and horrific. What did you feel as you were doing these careful, detailed drawings of war?

David Polonsky: I was really hunched over this thing and very close to it so I wasn’t thinking about the big picture. It only hits you at the end when you see what you’ve done. Most of the time I was focused on the details. But there was one thing that broke through, the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which came in the middle of the project. I was drawing these different places and at the same time I saw them on TV being bombed. It was weirdly claustrophobic, seeing the same stupidity repeating itself. And I was reminded that what I was doing wasn’t only a work of art but a part of our lives.

You’ve insisted that Waltz with Bashir is not a political project, but there’s no way to read the book or see the movie and avoid making a connection to politics.

Ari Folman: The point is that I didn’t set out to make a movie or a book with a political message. It’s above all a personal story. But certain things were very important to me that you might call “political.” We went to great lengths to avoid conveying anything about war that might be heroic. We were constantly vigilant making sure there wasn’t a shred of glorification in this story. The soldiers aren’t heroes and they aren’t role models. They’re not even antiheroes.

Books and movies about war, even when they’re antiwar, nearly always miss the mark. The fighting might be terrible but the soldiers are always cool, heroic, one for all, brothers. I do not want kids to wish they were like these characters. Here’s how it is as a soldier: You’re very young and totally clueless. You don’t know where you are and you don’t know who you’re shooting at. You’re afraid that you won’t be alive tomorrow and it feels like there’s not a single decision you can make to change any of it. I’ve been asked if I’m a pacifist. I became a pacifist the day they put me in a tank, and if Waltz convinces even one young person never to go to war, then I’ll have done my job.

David Polonsky: There was another crucial thing for us, which was to avoid showing the soldiers as victims. There’s a phrase in Israel about shooting and crying—we shoot and then cry at our misfortune at having to do it. We didn’t want any of that here, no self-pity. There’s a clear, simple message: War is terrible. To me, Waltz is first of all a work of art. But of course to be a good artist you have to be honest, and in Israel you can’t be honest if you disregard politics. So that’s always there, and sometimes it makes for better art because it keeps you from being too wrapped up in the form and the aesthetic.

Ari Folman: Listen, Waltz breaks no news in terms of what happened at Sabra and Shatila. Everyone knows the reported facts and I had nothing new to say. I was interested in the ordinary soldier, his point of view, and in the chronology of his understanding of the massacre. When do you put it all together, everything you’ve heard and seen and all the hints you’ve picked up, and realize there’s mass murder going on around the corner?

This is not a specifically Israeli question. This story could have been told by a Russian soldier in Chechnya or an American in Iraq or a Dutch peacekeeper who witnessed the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. Unfortunately, it’s a universal story.

The book and the movie have come out in the United States at a time when the conflict seems more intractable than ever.

Ari Folman: I’m not that pessimistic. Everyone knows that one day there will be a Palestine. In Israel, most people want to be part of the mainstream of ordinary life. They want to earn a good salary, pay less taxes, take a vacation abroad once a year. They don’t want to live by the sword. Look at it this way: I made the movie of Waltz with German co-producers. Sixty years ago, my parents’ families were slaughtered by Germans. My parents were the only survivors. What’s sixty years from the perspective of history? Nothing, but the change is profound. I’ve been to the Sarajevo film festival: think what was happening there thirteen years ago and now they live in peace. So it can be done.

Press Release

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Contact: Dana Trombley
[email protected]

Waltz with Bashir

A Lebanon War Story

by Ari Folman and David Polonsky

“Unique . . . exemplary, a work of astonishing aesthetic
integrity and searing moral power.”
—A. O. Scott, The New York Times

“A movie so unusual that it overflows any
box in which you try to contain it.”
—Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

“Provocative, hallucinatory, incendiary.”
—Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“The images of war that Ari Folman and his chief illustrator,
David Polonsky, conjure up have a feverish, infernal beauty . . . Unforgettable.” —David Ansen, Newsweek

The animated documentary film Waltz with Bashir, acclaimed throughout the world as extraordinary breakout cinema, has been called “the year’s most singular visionary experience at the movies” ( Now the graphic novel WALTZ WITH BASHIR: A Lebanon War Story (Henry Holt and Company/Metropolitan Books; Publication Date: February 17, 2009; ISBN: 0-8050-8892-X [PB]/ISBN: 0-8050-8673-0 [HC]), created simultaneously with the film, shows in stunning detail the beauty and artistry of this hauntingly powerful work.

Ari Folman’s exploration of war, repression, and remembrance begins one night when a friend tells him of a recurring nightmare in which he is chased by a pack of murderous dogs. The friend’s dream is connected to the 1982 war in Lebanon, where Folman, a young Israeli soldier, also fought. He himself has no memories of the fighting or of the notorious massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, which he witnessed. To fill the black memory hole, Folman sets out to investigate what really went on during the crucial hours.

In this beautifully rendered telling, Folman pieces together the war and his place in it by interviewing other soldiers who participated. Traveling from Israel to Holland and eventually to Beirut, Folman reconstructs his memory through the stories of his comrades. The recollections accumulate until Folman arrives at Sabra and Shatila, and his investigation reaches its terrible end.

An extraordinarily powerful indictment of violence and a work of art, the revolutionary graphic novel WALTZ WITH BASHIR will take its place as one of the great works of wartime reportage in book-publishing history.

About the Authors

ARI FOLMAN, a Tel Aviv–based filmmaker, wrote, produced, and directed the animated documentary Waltz with Bashir. His two previous feature films, Saint Clara and Made in Israel, both received numerous Israeli academy awards, among them best film and best director for Saint Clara, which also won the People’s Choice Award at the 1996 Berlin Film Festival. In addition, he produces and writes for television, including for the Israeli series In Treatment, which was remade in the United States for HBO.

DAVID POLONSKY was the art director and chief illustrator for the animated film Waltz with Bashir. His illustrations have appeared in every major Israeli daily and magazine. He has created animated short films for Israeli television and received multiple awards for his children’s book illustrations. He is currently an artist in resident at Rhode Island School of Design in the United States.

Metropolitan Books/an imprint of Henry Holt and Company
$18.00 [PB]/$27.50 [HC]; 128 pages
ISBN: 0-8050-8892-X [PB]/ISBN: 0-8050-8673-0 [HC] Publication Date: February 17, 2009

Publicity Contact

For more information, please contact:
Dana Trombley, Publicist
Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books
(646) 307-5251
[email protected]