Why Hollywood did the tango with 'Waltz with Bashir'
It's no secret that in recent years the Israeli film industry had become one of the most interesting in the world.
Just as it was difficult last May to answer the question of why "Waltz with Bashir" did not make it onto the list of winners at the Cannes Film Festival, despite the enthusiastic reviews it received during the event, it is hard to answer the question of why it now won the Golden Globe prize for best foreign language film. The choices made over the years, of both candidates and winners, at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards were on a number of occasions surprising.
The choice this time was of course gladdening and excellent. Beyond all its other merits, "Waltz with Bashir" represents contemporary Israeli film in the most direct and concentrated way. It is one of the most unique works ever produced here and at the same time, all the issues that ever engaged Israeli film are discussed in it in relation to this place and its history: the place of the individual within the collective, the place and its history; the relationship of the individual to his personal biography and also to that of the other, which is mixed with feelings of anguish, guilt and also self-pity.
But it is hard to believe that members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association voted for the movie because "Waltz with Bashir" represents Israeli film in its contemporary flourishing (and this despite the fact that the Israeli film industry has in recent years become one of the most interesting in the world and foreign reporters know this, even if they are based in insular Hollywood).
I want to believe that they chose "Waltz with Bashir" simply because it is a good film; that they responded to its originality and honored the daring of its creators.
It is also possible that "Waltz with Bashir" won because, despite its political dimension, it is a film that is not hard to accept, and it can relatively easily be removed from its particular political and historical context and positioned under the highly esteemed heading of "antiwar film."
This is also why Ari Folman's film, despite its sometimes harsh and sharp statements, was a hit in Israel. After all, this is a movie that both the right wing and the left wing can embrace and also attack, each from their own point of view. This creates the humanist aura that envelops the piece and also the basis for assailing it; and humanism has always been the most beloved value of liberals, among whom most of Hollywood's residents may be counted.
Did the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association send in their votes before the current war broke out or while it was already underway? Would this have affected their choice? It is hard to know, because this is, after all, America, and "Waltz with Bashir" is, as mentioned, a film loaded with ideological ambivalence, which works in its favor.
In his acceptance speech, Folman chose not to mention the current war but to appeal to the audience in the auditorium by referring to a vision of peace which lacked only the words "I have a dream." He even dedicated the prize to the eight children born to the film production crew during the course of making "Waltz with Bashir" and expressed the hope that when they grow up, the movie would seem to them like a video game depicting a foreign and unfamiliar reality.
Which just goes to show that Folman, both as an artist and as someone representing his film, knows exactly what he is doing, which is not a bad trait at all for a filmmaker.
That is how you win prizes and when the prizes are even awarded to a film that deserves them, and "Waltz with Bashir" is undoubtedly deserving of a prize, there is a sense of satisfaction.