Waltz with Bashir
Theatrical release poster
Original titleואלס עם באשיר
Directed byAri Folman
Written byAri Folman
Produced by
  • Ari Folman
  • Serge Lalou
  • Gerhard Meixner
  • Yael Nahlieli
  • Roman Paul
  • Richard O’Connell
StarringAri Folman
Edited byNili Feller
Music byMax Richter
  • Bridgit Folman Film Gang
  • Les Films d'Ici
  • Razor Film Produktion
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release dates
  • 13 May 2008 (2008-05-13) (Cannes)
  • 5 June 2008 (2008-06-05) (Israel)
Running time
90 minutes[1]
  • Germany
  • France
  • Israel
Budget$1.3 million[2]
Box office$11.1 million[3]

Waltz with Bashir (Hebrew: ואלס עם באשיר, translit. Vals Im Bashir) is a 2008 Israeli adult animated war docudrama film written, produced, and directed by Ari Folman. It depicts Folman's search for lost memories of his experience as a soldier during the 1982 Lebanon War and the Sabra and Shatila massacre.[4]

The film premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d'Or. Subsequently, it received wide acclaim from critics and audiences alike, with particular praise given to its themes, animation, direction, story, Max Richter's score and editing, and grossed over $11 million at the global box office. It won numerous awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film,[5] the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film, the César Award for Best Foreign Film, and the International Documentary Association Award for Best Feature Documentary, and was nominated for many more, including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film,[6] the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language, and the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature.

Bashir and the stop-motion $9.99, both released in 2008, were the first Israeli feature-length animated films released theatrically since Joseph the Dreamer in 1962.


In 2006, Ari Folman meets with Boaz, an old friend who tells Ari he is being haunted by a recurrent nightmare in which 26 rabidly angry dogs run toward his home through the streets of Tel Aviv, destroying everything in their way. Boaz explains that, during the 1982 Lebanon War, the other soldiers in his unit knew he would not be able to kill a human, so they gave him the job of killing the dogs when they infiltrated a village at night so the animals would not alert the villagers to their presence, and he vividly remembers each of the 26 dogs he killed. Ari is surprised to find that, although he had also fought in the conflict during his stint as an infantry soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, he recalls nothing of his deployment. Troubled by this, later that night he has a vision of his younger self and two other soldiers bathing at night in the Mediterranean just off the coast of Beirut under the light of flares descending over the city. He recognizes the vision as being connected to the Sabra and Shatila massacre, but he cannot remember enough to put this fragment in context.

Early the next morning, Ari rushes off to see a childhood friend, who is a professional therapist. His friend advises him to seek out others who were in Beirut at the time of the massacre to gain a better understanding of what happened and, hopefully, revive his own memories. The friend further explains that, given the nature of human memory, the vision might not be an exact record of what actually occurred, though it certainly relates to matters of great importance to Ari's inner world.

Ari interviews friends and other soldiers who fought in the war, as well as a psychologist specializing in PTSD and Israeli TV reporter Ron Ben-Yishai, who was in Beirut covering the war when the massacre took place. Eventually, Ari's memories start to come back into focus, and he remembers that he "was in the second or third ring" of soldiers involved in the massacre, as his unit fired flares into the sky at night in support of the Israeli-allied Lebanese Christian Phalange militia while they perpetrated the massacre in retaliation for the assassination of Bachir Gemayel. While he did not know what the militia was up to until after they were finished, he concludes that the holes in his memory were a defense mechanism, as his younger self had felt as responsible for the massacre as those who actually carried it out. The film ends with the animation dissolving into actual news footage of the aftermath of the massacre.


Most of the interview subjects look very similar in real life and in the film, but two of Ari Folman's friends asked that he have an actor rerecord their interviews and have the animators not base the design of their character on their actual appearance.


Chopin's Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64 no. 2, performed by L. Faulkner

The film takes its title from a scene in which Shmuel Frenkel, one of the interviewees and the commander of Folman's infantry unit at the time of the film's events, grabs a general purpose machine gun and "dances an insane waltz" (to the tune of Chopin's Waltz in C-sharp minor) amid heavy enemy fire on a Beirut street festooned with huge posters of Bashir Gemayel. The title also refers to Israel's short-lived political waltz with Bashir Gemayel as president of Lebanon.[7]


The film took four years to complete. It is unusual, as it is a feature-length documentary that, excluding one short segment of archival news footage at the end, consists entirely of animation. Stylistically, it combines classical music, 1980s music, realistic graphics, and surrealistic scenes together with illustrations similar to comics.

The animation, with its dark hues representing the overall feel of the film, uses a unique style invented by Yoni Goodman at the Bridgit Folman Film Gang studio in Israel. The technique is often confused with rotoscoping, an animation style in which the drawings are done over live footage, but is actually a combination of Adobe Flash cutouts and classic animation.[8] Each drawing was sliced into hundreds of pieces that were moved in relation to one another to create the illusion of movement. The film was first constructed as a 90-minute video using live-action footage shot in a sound studio, and then turned into storyboards and animatics. From there, 2,300 illustrations were drawn based on the storyboards, which were used to create the actual film scenes using Flash animation, classic animation, and 3D technologies.[9]

The comics medium, in particular Joe Sacco,[10] the novels Catch-22, The Adventures of Wesley Jackson, and Slaughterhouse-Five,[11] and painter Otto Dix,[12] were mentioned by Folman and art director David Polonsky as influences on the film. The film itself was adapted into a graphic novel in 2009.[13]

The score for the film was composed by minimalist electronic musician Max Richter, while the featured songs are by OMD ("Enola Gay"), PiL ("This is Not a Love Song"), Navadey Haukaf (נוודי האוכף, or "Good Morning Lebanon", which was written for the film), HaClique ("Incubator"), and Zeev Tene ("Beirut", which is a remake of the Cake song "I Bombed Korea"). Some reviewers view the music as playing an active role in the film, commentating on events, rather than simply accompanying them.[14]


Waltz with Bashir opened in five theaters in the United States on 25 December 2008, grossing $50,021 in its first weekend. By the end of its run, on 14 May 2009, it had grossed $2,283,849 at the domestic box office. Overseas, Waltz earned $8,842,000, for a worldwide total of $11,125,849.[3]

Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 96% "fresh" rating based on reviews from 153 critics, for an average rating of 8.4/10; the site's "critics consensus" states: "A wholly innovative, original, and vital history lesson, with pioneering animation, Waltz With Bashir delivers its message about the Middle East in a mesmerizing fashion."[15] On Metacritic, the film holds a weighted average score of 91/100 based on 33 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".

IndieWire named the film the tenth best of the year, based on the site's annual survey of 100 film critics. Xan Brooks of The Guardian called it "an extraordinary, harrowing, provocative picture."[16] The film was praised for "inventing a new cinematographic language" at the Tokyo Filmex festival.[17] The World Socialist Web Site's David Walsh described it as a "painfully honest" anti-war film and "one of the most extraordinary and haunting films at the Toronto film festival."[18] Despite the positive critical reception, the film was only moderately commercially successful in Israel itself.[4]

Several writers described the film as part of the Israeli "shooting and crying" tradition (where soldiers express remorse about their actions, but do not do anything concrete to remedy the situation), but Folman has disputed this.[19]

Lebanon screening

The film is banned in some Arab countries (including Lebanon), with the harshest criticism in Lebanon, as the film depicts a vague and violent time in Lebanon's history. A movement of bloggers, among them the Lebanese Inner Circle and +961, have rebelled against the Lebanese government's ban of the film, and have managed to get the film seen by local Lebanese critics. In defiance of the government's request to ban it, the film was privately screened in Beirut in January 2009 in front of 90 people.[20] Since then, many screenings have taken place, and unofficial copies of the film are also available in the country. Folman saw the screening as a source of great pride: "I was overwhelmed and excited. I wish I could have been there. I wish one day I'll be able to present the film myself in Beirut. For me, it will be the happiest day of my life."[21]

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008, including:[22]

It was also ranked #34 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010,[25] and #4 in Current TV's "50 Documentaries to See Before You Die" in 2011.

Awards and nominations

Waltz with Bashir was the first animated film to receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the second to be nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film (France's Persepolis was the first a year prior).[26] It was also the first R-rated animated film to be considered for those honors. The film was the first Israeli winner of the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film since The Policeman (1971), and the first documentary to win the award.[27] Although submitted for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, it failed to be nominated, and it became ineligible for the Academy Award for Documentary Feature when the academy announced a new rule stating that only documentaries with a qualifying run in both New York and Los Angeles by 31 August could be nominated.[28]

The film was included in the National Board of Review's list of the Top Five Foreign Films of 2008. It received nominations for Annie and BAFTA Awards for Best Animated Feature, but lost to Kung Fu Panda and WALL-E, respectively. Folman won the WGA's Best Documentary Feature Screenplay award and the DGA's Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary award for his work on the film.

Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film Waltz with Bashir Nominated
Animafest Zagreb Grand Prize Won
Annie Awards Best Animated Feature Nominated
Directing in an Animated Feature Production Ari Folman Nominated
Writing in an Animated Feature Production Nominated
Music in an Animated Feature Production Max Richter Nominated
Asia Pacific Screen Awards Best Animated Film Waltz with Bashir Won
BAFTA Awards Best Film Not in the English Language Nominated
Best Animated Film Nominated
Bodil Awards Best Non-American Film Won
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best Foreign Language Film Runner-up
Best Animated Film Runner-up
British Independent Film Awards Best Foreign Independent Film Won
Broadcast Film Critics Awards Best Foreign Language Film Won
Best Animated Film Nominated
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Nominated
César Awards Best Foreign Film Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Animated Film Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Best Documentary Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary Ari Folman Won
European Film Awards Best Film Waltz with Bashir Nominated
Best Director Ari Folman Nominated
Best Screenwriter Nominated
Best Composer Max Richter Won
Festival du Nouveau Cinéma Daniel Langlois Innovation Award Waltz with Bashir Won
Gijón International Film Festival Best Art Direction Yoni Goodman Won
Youth Jury, Feature Waltz with Bashir Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Foreign Language Film Won
International Cinephile Society Awards Best Film Not in the English Language Won
Best Animated Film Won
Best Documentary Won
International Documentary Association Awards Feature Documentary Won (tied with Man on Wire)
International Film Music Critics Association Awards Breakout Composer of the Year Max Richter Nominated
Best Original Score for an Animated Feature Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Animated Film Waltz with Bashir Won
Best Documentary/Non-Fiction Film Runner-up
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Film Won
Ophir Awards Best Film Won
Best Director Ari Folman Won
Best Screenplay Won
Best Cinematography Yoni Goodman Nominated
Best Artistic Design David Polonsky Won
Best Editing Nili Feller Won
Best Sound Design Aviv Aldema Won
Palić Film Festival Golden Tower Waltz with Bashir Won
Satellite Awards Best Animated or Mixed Media Film Nominated
Best Documentary Film Nominated
Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival Special Jury Prize Won
Tokyo Filmex Grand Prize Won
Utah Film Critics Association Awards Best Non-English Language Feature Runner-up
Best Documentary Feature Runner-up
Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Yoni Goodman, Yael Nahlieli Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Documentary Feature Screenplay Ari Folman Won

See also



  1. ^ "WALTZ WITH BASHIR (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 26 August 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  2. ^ Ari Folman's journey into a heart of darkness Archived 31 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine, International Herald Tribune
  3. ^ a b "Waltz with Bashir (2008)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. 15 May 2009. Archived from the original on 21 August 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  4. ^ a b The "Waltz with Bashir" Two-Step Archived 16 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Hillel Halkin. Commentary Magazine. March 2009.
  5. ^ "Golden Globes". Archived from the original on 13 November 2019. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  6. ^ "Bashir Makes Oscar Cut|Animation Magazine". 14 January 2009. Archived from the original on 13 November 2019. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  7. ^ "Dancing With Memory, Massacre In 'Bashir'". NPR.org. NPR. Archived from the original on 17 August 2019. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  8. ^ Waltz with Bashir Archived 22 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine, DG Design Archived 25 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ [1]Archived 31 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine Israeli filmmakers head to Cannes with animated documentary [VIDEO], Israel21c.org
  10. ^ "A Waltz and an Interview: Speaking with Waltz with Bashir Creator Ari Folman". cincity2000.com. Archived from the original on 15 January 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  11. ^ "Interview - Ari Folman". Eye Weekly. Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
  12. ^ "Total recall- The Irish Times". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 24 March 2021. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  13. ^ Ari Folman (author), David Polonsky (Illustrator), Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story (Atlantic Books, 1 March 2009). ISBN 978-1-84887-068-0
  14. ^ "The Responsible Dream: On Waltz with Bashir by Jayson Harsin". Bright Lights Film Journal. Retrieved 6 February 2009.
  15. ^ "Waltz with Bashir". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  16. ^ Brooks, Xan (15 May 2008). "Bring on the light relief". Cannes diary. London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 May 2008. Retrieved 15 May 2008.
  17. ^ Schilling, Mark (1 December 2008). "'Bashir' wins big at Tokyo Filmex". Variety. Archived from the original on 15 June 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  18. ^ Walsh, David (24 December 2008). "Waltz With Bashir: 'Memory takes us where we need to go'". World Socialist Web Site. Archived from the original on 18 August 2016. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  19. ^ "Shooting Film and Crying". MERIP. 16 March 2009. Archived from the original on 28 June 2020. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  20. ^ "Israeli film on Lebanon War 'Waltz with Bashir' shown in Beirut". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 11 April 2018. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
  21. ^ "'Waltz with Bashir' breaks barriers in Arab world". The Jerusalem Post. 22 February 2009. Archived from the original on 17 September 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Metacritic: 2008 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2 January 2009. Retrieved 11 January 2009.
  23. ^ "#285: Top 10 Films of 2009—Filmspotting". Archived from the original on 24 March 2021. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  24. ^ "Christy Lemire's best movies of 2008 - Orange County Register". 24 December 2008. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  25. ^ "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema | 34. Waltz with Bashir". Empire. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  26. ^ "Best Motion Picture - Foreign Language|Page 3|Golden Globes". Archived from the original on 13 November 2019. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  27. ^ "'Waltz with Bashir' Makes Golden Globe History". documentary.org. 12 January 2009. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
  28. ^ "Bashir at Center of Oscar Controversy". Animation Magazine. Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
Awards Preceded byThere Will Be Blood NSFC Award for Best Film 2008 Succeeded byThe Hurt Locker