Tom RostonIndependent journalist Tom Roston checks in and writes about the world of documentaries in his column, Doc Soup.

You can follow Tom on Twitter @DocSoupMan.

Doc Soup: Waltz with Bashir

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In addition to the exciting tidbit that Michael Moore‘s next film will be a follow-up to Fahrenheit 9/11, the most enticing news from the Cannes Film Festival, which just concluded, is about an Israeli documentary called Waltz with Bashir. It’s a fully animated film by a former Israeli soldier, Ari Folman, who’s trying to reckon with the massacre of Palestinians (and his involvement) during the 1982 war in Lebanon. I’ve been a strong advocate of the brilliant animated work applied to documentaries by the likes of Brett Morgen (Chicago 10) and Jessica Yu (In the Realms of the Unreal, POV 2005). The animated documentary has pretty much become a standard, with the likes of Michael Moore (remember the brief history of America in Bowling for Columbine?) and Morgan Spurlock (Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?) using it to strong comic effect.

Waltz with Bashir by Ari FolmanBut in this, Waltz with Bashir, we see the possibility that a fully animated — from start to finish — documentary could be a success. The reviews have been quite positive. It recalls the recent Persepolis, or Richard Linklater‘s fantastic Waking Life, a trippy film about a boy in a dreamlike state, that was entirely created with rotoscopic technology in which a regular live-action film is shot in video. Animators then “draw” over the images to create an eerily life-like medium. (OK, so maybe when the same technique is used in Charles Schwab commercials it feels more annoying than eerie.)

Director Folman spent $2 million and four years making the film. First, he conducted interviews, then wrote a screenplay in which he stars as himself journeying back into his memories. The script was entirely shot in a studio (so, for example, when he talks with someone in a car, the person on the set holds a prop steering wheel). He then edited the footage into a full feature and broke that footage up into a storyboard of frames. Then, the animation team illustrated all of the frames. You can check out the trailer — I think it looks phenomenal.

Of course, a film like Waltz with Bashir poses all sorts of interesting questions, like is it a friggin’ documentary in the first place if it’s all reenacted — and animated, to boot?

I’d say yes, but let’s wait to see the film. It’s going to be released in Israel in June, and it was just picked up by the guys at Sony Pictures Classics, Michael Barker and Tom Bernard. They released the animated films Persepolis and Triplets of Belleville and I know how smart and savvy they can be with unconventional films, so I’ve got a lot of hope for this one. It’s due for release some time this year.

Tom Roston
Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He comes to us as a ten-year veteran of Premiere magazine, where he was a Senior Editor, and where he wrote the column, Notes from the Dream Factory. Tom was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom has also written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, GQ, New York, Elle and other publications. Tom's favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi - Godfrey Reggio 2. Hoop Dreams - Steve James 3. The Up series - Michael Apted 4. Crumb - Terry Zwigoff 5. Capturing the Friedmans - Andrew Jarecki
  • Sivy

    FOREIGNID: 15520
    I saw this movie in Israel and it is everything everyone has said about it. Its something that is powerful and stay in your mind months afterwards. I saw it twice and will see it a third time if I get the chance to in theaters. I can’t wait till it hits America so my friends there can see it and we can share with each other our experience with it.