eumelia: (Default)
Who isn't talking about the fact that Kate Winslet finally got the Oscar she deserved five nominations ago.
Life imitates art as she won it for playing the role in the Holocaust film The Reader... well, post-Holocaust film really. I haven't seen it, so I really cannot comment on her acting in it.
But throughout award season there have been references to her performance on Ricky Gervais' show "Extras" in which she satirises herself - saying that she's doing a Holocaust movie in order to finally get the Oscar the whole world says she should have.

For your viewing pleasure:


Schindler's bloody List indeed.

In any event, good on Winslet, I don't know if this is the movie in which she should have won, but she should have won long ago.
Her craft as an actress has always been beyond superb.

That's what the Oscars are about you know.
The craft of the film - that's why I'm never surprised when the most conventional and conformist movies get nominated and win.
It's kind of why I haven't seen most of the Oscar nominated movies - they're all so conventional and conformist.

The only categories in which truly artistic films - that is, films whose craft are not of the "classical" British or Hollywood made - have a chance at winning an academy award are the Animation features (both long and short) and the foreign language film.
Probably the most arbitrary category in existence!
Because a "foreign language" is a genre.
Really.
It's not.

As most of you know, Waltz with Bashir didn't win the foreign language film category.
I was rooting for it.
But I didn't think it would win.
My own theory is that it didn't win because it was too avant-garde. And the old men and women of the academy, recalling the bygone days of the 50's, 60's and yes, maybe even 70's, could probably not let themselves give an academy award to a cartoon.

Unlike some paranoiacs the Academy did not deny Israel an Oscar because they're anti-Zionst. *snort* not bloody likely.
Bradely Burston, the Ha'aretz English Edition columnist who writes about Israel from the Jewish-American perspective (I can only assume) wrote a very negative column about the Oscars and Jewish portrayal titled Winslet, "Waltz", and how Hollywood likes its Jews:
Hollywood knows exactly how it likes its Jews: Victims. Civilian victims. Targets of genocide. None of this Goliath stuff. None of these pre-emptive, disproportionate, morally amorphous behaviours.

I suppose one shouldn't mention the latest "Holocaust" movie Defiance?
Never mind.
Burston's point is that the Israeli narrative doesn't sit well with the Hollywood ilk.
Because Israelis are and I quote:
Israelis are complicated, angry, unhappy, family-oriented, insular, often flawed human-beings.
Perhaps, in the Hollywood context, the problem with these Israelis, is that they are not identifiable as Jews at all

There.
That's the point.
Israelis, in the classical and historical sense are not really Jews.
We are not wanderers, we are parochial, we are not rootless, we are a cohesive nation (as much as a "nation" of that kind exists) and we are no longer persecuted.
Merely surrounded by enemies.
No, Israelis are not classically identifiable as Jews - that is probably why the Jewish Diaspora is in two minds about Israel - Look at what the Jewish people have become out of the ashes of the Holocaust.
What indeed.

Let's ignore the fact that a bunch of Israelis come from places not even touched or affected by the Holocaust - wouldn't want to disrupt the meta-narrative of Israel's existence.

So because Bashir was about a wholly Israeli experience, with it's avant-garde package of docu-drama quasi-psychological dream-hallucinations and real life footage flashbacks... it didn't win.

As far as I can recall, there is nothing specifically "Jewish" about Waltz with Bashir except that snippet in which the Holocaust is used in an attempt to colour the actions and reactions of the protagonist.
Unsuccessfully I might add.
The only thing the mentioning of the Holocaust does in the movie is bring to mind that Israel commits war crimes and crimes against humanity and that the Holocaust cannot be removed from Israeli conciousness by virtue of it being the worst and last time, Jews were victimised.

But Israeli Jews consider themselves the "real" Jews. And with it comes the double-think.
We are no longer the weak effeminate victims, we are macho land workers etc.
At the same time we are surrounded by enemies who only want to shove us into the sea and we must not allow this - we have the biggest weapons and the biggest allies - *smash-smash-smash*.
Not to mention the over-all disdain a lot of Israeli Jews have towards Diaspora Jews: the Jews who support Israel but don't come to live here are cowards and those who don't support Israel are self-hating Jews who when the going gets tough will probably flock here in droves.

I've been accused of being naive, you know, because I'm "enamoured" of the Palestinians.
I'm not enamoured with anyone.
Is it too much to ask that everyone be allowed to live in dignity and self-determination?
That the recognition of wrongs be made official?

Waltz with Bashir isn't about those things.
It's about the cognitive dissonance of Israeli soldiers raised in a culture of overt masculinity that relies on reliving and relearning the victims that we are.

In the words of Kate Winslet "We get it. It was grim. Move on".
Moving on doesn't mean forgetting or putting aside - anyone who has been through a traumatic event knows this - it does mean that it doesn't overshadow and colour your entire life all the time.
It also means that we will be able to empathise with those are currently being victimised without believing that we suffered more and are thus always oppressed.

It's something to look forward to.
eumelia: (Default)
With the Academy Awards just around the corner - tomorrow, in fact - the Interwebs and media that I read are a-buzz with Waltz with Bashir, which I wrote about a few times.

I've mainly been reading analysis' of the film and something that I keep jumping from these reviews is the fact that Ari Folman silenced the Palestinians voices in regards to the massacre of Sabra and Shatila.
That he did a disservice by not talking about or telling a bit of the victims' story.

This is a valid complaint, as Ari Folman really doesn't give a voice to anyone other than the soldiers and journalists that were in Lebanon and Beirut at the time.
Another thing that I keep reading about is how Folman is replicating the myth of The Good Soldier, that Israeli soldiers even when they do bad things are fundamentally good and moral.
And of course, the lack of political context, the invasion of Lebanon and Israel complicities in the massacre, green lighting it and assisting the Phalanges by lighting their way (well, Jews always said they were Light unto the nations). Why was it happening? Who gave the order? Why did the soldiers obey? etc. etc. etc.

All these are valid complaints and questions.
I don't think though, that they have anything to do with the movie.

Ha'aretz jounalist Gideon Levy, well known for his weekend column "The Twiligh Zone in which he writes about the every day atrocities of the Occupation, wrote an op-ed about Waltz with Bashir titled Medal of Dishonour.
In it he wrote:
[...]The images coming out of Gaza that day looked remarkably like those in Folman's film. But he was silent. So before we sing Folman's praises, which will of course be praise for us all, we would do well to remember that this is not an antiwar film, nor even a critical work about Israel as militarist and occupier. It is an act of fraud and deceit, intended to allow us to pat ourselves on the back, to tell us and the world how lovely we are.
[...]
Why do we need propagandists, officers, commentators and spokespersons who will convey "information"? We have this waltz.
The waltz rests on two ideological foundations. One is the "we shot and we cried" syndrome: Oh, how we wept, yet our hands did not spill this blood. Add to this a pinch of Holocaust memories, without which there is no proper Israeli self-preoccupation. And a dash of victimization - another absolutely essential ingredient in public discourse here - and voila! You have the deceptive portrait of Israel 2008, in words and pictures.
[...]
It is very convenient to make a film about the first, and now remote, Lebanon war: We already sent one of those, "Beaufort," to the Oscar competition. And it's even more convenient to focus specifically on Sabra and Chatila, the Beirut refugee camps[...]

I'll stop quoting here, as I don't want to talk about the entirety of Levy's article, but mainly about Levy's shallow reading of the movie.

It's easy to say "Folam silenced Arab voices".
Well, he silenced Women's voices as well - the only time we see women in the movie is when they are either victims of war or sexually objectified for the soldier's benefit and comfort.
Maybe after the Oscar's I'll rent or download the film and write a feminist and queer review of it - breaking apart Israeli masculinity that is on the verge of destruction there in any case.

But I digress.

Levy writes that this is a "deceptive portrait of Israel 2008, in words and pictures".
On the contrary I say.
This is exactly, exactly the way Israel sees itself and Folman shows it, yes, in a beautiful artistic way.
Israel is enamoured with it's self-righteousness.
Israel cannot distance itself from the Holocaust, it is our greatest disaster and everything we (as citizens) and as soldiers is coloured by the fantasy of persecution, ashes and death.
Ari Folman shows this, by using his therapist friend who lovingly tells him, it is not the camps "over there", but that camps "back then".
Ari Folam in the film isn't convinced that this is so and continued exploring his memories.
Continues to challenge the silence surrounding what happened "over there".
And yes it is specifically Israel's own silence about what happened - the massacre is not taught in History classes, it is not spoken about when discussing atrocities of war, or of anything.

To call the film convenient is very shallow.
Ari Folman managed to bring back into the forefront of people's minds the massacre in which we were complicit - yes, he didn't write or include the political context or give place for the victims story... but as an Israeli film maker, Ari Folam has no right to tell the Palestinians story in this movie. As for political context, I think Folman managed to show us that things in Israel remain the same in every decade.

Yes, during the Golden Globes Israel shot Gaza to smithereens.
And Ari Folman made no statement other than "My movie will always be relevant".
Should he have made a stronger statement against the operation in Gaza?
Maybe.
Or maybe one should watch the movie and see the video images that bring home that this is not a fun, artistic, quasi-psychological film.
This movie brought Sabra and Shatila back into the forefront of people's minds, not to mention that an entire generation that knew little or even nothing about Lebanon now knows that Israel was complicit in the death of hundreds (even thousands) of innocent people.

I know, what about Gaza? Where were the 400,000 people marching in against this operation. Why did we vote for a Right Wing government?

Because Israel is as portrayed in the film.
Self-righteous.
Paranoid.
And disconnected from the principles of cause, effect and dialectics.

And Ari Folman's portrayal of that dissonance was brilliant.

Below I've linked other critical reviews with which I agree with more or less. I didn't feel the need to go into as with Levy's somewhat acidic critique of a film that managed to portray the cruelty of Israel in it's final shot better than he has with a weekly column.

Film Review: "Waltz with Bashir" by Naira Antoun.
Waltzing alone by Liel Leibovitz.
When Israel accepts the war waltz and when it doesn't by Tania Tabar, which I wrote about here.
eumelia: (Default)
A critical article regarding Waltz with Bashir called When Israel accepts the war waltz and when it doesn't which was brought to my attention by [livejournal.com profile] shelestel via [livejournal.com profile] esizzle.

As some of you know Waltz with Bashir won the foreign language Golden Globe which aired during the second week of operation "Cast Lead" a.k.a the Israeli War on Gaza.
To say it was apropos would be an understatement.

Reading this very interesting article, few things popped out and made me think of something I hadn't actually considered before.

"It is a completely apolitical film. It's a personal film. If it were a political film, we would have dealt with the other sides, meaning that we would have interviewed the Palestinian and Christian sides. And it does not. It's a very personal film," Folman told France 24.

But in being apolitical, Waltz With Bashir also fails to provide context.

The film's narrative begins as Folman, the main character, travels to Europe and around Israel speaking with fellow soldiers who fought in Lebanon. He eventually begins to piece together what happened during his time in Beirut, which he had erased from his memory.
[...]
Maybe it was too much to ask Folman to reinterpret the entire historical accounting of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in one film. But if the Israeli public is able to swallow the sensitive nature of Waltz With Bashir it is precisely because it stays away from treating the Israeli state as a long-time political actor in the systematic, ongoing violence in Lebanon.

Thus, there is no overt questioning of why Israel was in Lebanon in the first place. Israeli military actions are validated under the guise of "fighting terrorism," and this is poignant when considering how the current Gaza war will be viewed in hindsight.

Also, Waltz With Bashir fails to present Israeli soldiers as direct participants in the massacres of Sabra and Shatila. Israeli soldiers were only following orders so any responsibility lay solely with the chain of command.

Emphasis mine.

I have to say... this wasn't something I had considered before. Quite simply, because I am ignorant of Israel's role as a political entity within Lebanon's inner politics.
I consider myself a pretty well-informed individual.
I knew of the massacre.
After the second Lebanon war I took the time to read about the first Lebanon war and "discovered" the massacre in which the IDF is complicit.
Before 2006 Sabra and Shatila was just something that happened to the Palestinians in Lebanon. I had no idea who or why or even what was committed.
For over 21 years a portion of history - mine and theirs - was unknown to me.
This is not something strange, I know a few others to whom this movie was the first time they were confronted with the fact that the we, Israel, helped commit a crime... no "war" prefix needed in my opinion.

This article is correct in stating (not directly) that Israelis in general do not ask "Why?", "For what reason?", "How does this serve us?".
We [the collective] take for granted, in this very militarist and nationalist inclined society that everything done, even if it's "bad" is for the good of Israel and Jewish people.
In Sabra and Shatila there was senseless murder.
Ari Folman shows that very well.
What isn't asked is "Why were we even there in the first place?", now I don't know what Ari Folman's thoughts or opinions on that are, but I do know that for the "average" Israeli the question doesn't even enter our minds.

We are not encouraged to ask these questions that may undermine the hegemony of citizen loyalry to the Zionist collective.
We are not encouraged to ask questions period, we are either stupid or provocative, and who wants to be regarded as either stupid or provocative.

Every war is a war for the continued existence.

Even though every war, since the 1982 Lebanon war, has brought about internal protest.

This war, on Gaza and against Hamas, has brought a wave of right wing nationalism and extremism. The political discourse may be saying "Left", but facts on the ground (a saying we love so much in this part of the world) is screaming "Right":
During "Cast Lead" over 700 Palestinian-Israelis (colloquially known as Israeli-Arabs) were arrested and brought in for questioning for demonstrating against the war.
The two Arab parties Balad and Ra'am-Ta'al were stricken from the ballot (the Supreme court will reinstate their place, no doubt).
The Israeli media did not do it's job by asking the tough questions that great Free Press Journalism makes, we can always blame the IDF censors, but I think a certain ideology runs through Israeli media.

The biggest questions the no one asked was "what good will this war bring? will it actually stop Hamas from firing rockets? and if this is for the people of Sderot and the rest of surrounding towns why was this not dealt with before 2005, before the IDF left the strip?".

Same with Lebanon 1982... no one asked why. Not the soldiers who were only following orders like all the soldiers in the world who do not want to consider what they do to be inhumane. Not the home front who wants to believe that what is happening is done for their own protection.

No one asks.
No one answers.

It's a point that is, I think, brought across quite poignantly in Waltz with Bashir.
eumelia: (Default)
I slept like a log last night.
Woke up at dawn and watched a first instances of light filter through... and went back to sleep.
No dreams.
No visions.
Just... pure sleep.

Last night I was unable to write about the film coherently because I was still in a state of catharsis.
It's a very difficult movie, the animation creates a buffer from the gory reality that is portrayed and the seamless transition between the present, memory and hallucination was... magnificent.

Ari Folman is a very courageous film maker, he is making a statement that is very, very political but yet transcends "Left" or "Right", he's showing how we remember that which we really don't want to.
Folman himself doesn't consider the film to be political, just very personal.
But everyone knows, by now, that the Personal is Political and he shows us exactly how intricate that relationship is.

We don't see what went through the minds of the Phalangists or of the Palestinians, he only shows us what goes on in the mind of kids men, who were kids, that witnessed an atrocity and were also complicit in it.

As I said, watching the movie inevitably brought back memories of my own War.
The second Lebanon war.
I recognised Beirut in ruins and I recognised the aerial films that target people in order to bomb them.
Not much has changed.
That could very well have been a point.

Memory is a weird and, ha, surreal thing.
It's also a real thing, though not tangible.
The film shows how this works, how events that are experienced, history will construe differently.
There are complete scenes in the movie that reminded me of things I experienced, but I don't really want to give things away because not knowing all the details and spoilers really enhances the viewing.
One thing that is by now well known about the movie is that at the very end, just before the credits, there is actual footage of Sabra and Shatila after the massacre and it happens just as the young soldier remembers, clearly and really, what happened.
Those memories of war which for twenty years he just didn't want to remember.

It was extraordinary.

Watching the movie wasn't just cathartic for me.
With this viewing I feel I've come full circle with myself as far as my own war is concerned.
Which makes me very, very glad.
Because with the closing of this story I don't need to be haunted any more, I don't need to make sure all the time that I'm not too anxious or starting a spiral of panic.
I'm stronger than I used to be.
Even my therapist says so... and so I've reached a peak of my therapy and will no longer be needing to see her on such a regular basis... just when and if I need to.
Which makes me very, very glad.

Behind the very beautiful moving pictures is a very real and true story, history and it is unforgiving.
This movie is an anti-war film in the sense that when you identify with the soldiers, and you do, you don't want to be there just as much as them.
I have a feeling I'll carry this movie for a long time.

The trailer is really just a taste, a drop in the ocean that is this film: Waltz with Bashir )

I hope this didn't take too much of your time.
eumelia: (Default)
I've just come back from a movie.

Probably the most important move I've ever seen (or will see) my whole life.

Memory is something we're told to cherish and hold close to our hearts and to never let go of the memories.
Memories are who we are.

I've just come back from watching a movie.
It's an animated feature.
The genre is slippery; it could be a documentary, a biopic or even just your run of the mill (anti)war movie.
But it's not just any of those things.
It's a movie about what we don't want to deal with.

Waltz with Bashir is a movie about how we remember and don't remember and why.
Knowing the details of Sabra and Shatila, the Phalangists and Israel's own complicity in what happened doesn't prepare you for this fragmented tale of memory and the remembering of memories... not forgotten... just... gone away.

Not coherent I know.

I'm still speechless and weepy.
Remembering my own images of war - which were removed from me by cameras and screens and radio coms - the animation helps to keep the gory details away, just like memory filters away those terrible images and you remember them... but without the impact that will have you shaking and sobbing and vomiting.

Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to write something that will make sense.
Maybe not.

If it's in a cinema near you... go see it.
Go.
Just... go.

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Eumelia

June 2015

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V and Justice

V: Ah, I was forgetting that we are not properly introduced. I do not have a name. You can call me V. Madam Justice...this is V. V... this is Madam Justice. hello, Madam Justice.

Justice: Good evening, V.

V: There. Now we know each other. Actually, I've been a fan of yours for quite some time. Oh, I know what you're thinking...

Justice: The poor boy has a crush on me...an adolescent fatuation.

V: I beg your pardon, Madam. It isn't like that at all. I've long admired you...albeit only from a distance. I used to stare at you from the streets below when I was a child. I'd say to my father, "Who is that lady?" And he'd say "That's Madam Justice." And I'd say "Isn't she pretty."

V: Please don't think it was merely physical. I know you're not that sort of girl. No, I loved you as a person. As an ideal.

Justice: What? V! For shame! You have betrayed me for some harlot, some vain and pouting hussy with painted lips and a knowing smile!

V: I, Madam? I beg to differ! It was your infidelity that drove me to her arms!

V: Ah-ha! That surprised you, didn't it? You thought I didn't know about your little fling. But I do. I know everything! Frankly, I wasn't surprised when I found out. You always did have an eye for a man in uniform.

Justice: Uniform? Why I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about. It was always you, V. You were the only one...

V: Liar! Slut! Whore! Deny that you let him have his way with you, him with his armbands and jackboots!

V: Well? Cat got your tongue? I though as much.

V: Very well. So you stand revealed at last. you are no longer my justice. You are his justice now. You have bedded another.

Justice: Sob! Choke! Wh-who is she, V? What is her name?

V: Her name is Anarchy. And she has taught me more as a mistress than you ever did! She has taught me that justice is meaningless without freedom. She is honest. She makes no promises and breaks none. Unlike you, Jezebel. I used to wonder why you could never look me in the eye. Now I know. So good bye, dear lady. I would be saddened by our parting even now, save that you are no longer the woman I once loved.

*KABOOM!*

-"V for Vendetta"

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