Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2011

Osama, Persepolis and Waltz with Bashir


Discussion Questions:

Remember, your images are ABOVE your name.

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. Email me your responses in Word .doc or .docx format to: I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it.


The three films in this question set are all set in Middle Eastern countries that continue to experience high levels of politically driven conflict - Afghanistan (Osama), Iran (Persepolis) and Lebanan (Bashir). The directors of these films all use very different cinematic approaches to telling their stories. All of the stories are based on real or realistic events. Most of the questions will attempt to provoke thinking and discussion about the relative success or appropriateness of the varied approaches to conveying and convincing us about the subject matter.

1. Osama Persepolis Bashir

Jennifer Beggs
Briefly compare the opening sequences of the three films. Do you find one more effective at bringing you into the subject matter of the film?

For me, because Osama was not animated, the real-life footage was able to better draw me into the beginning of the movie to make me feel as though I were a part of the opening scene itself. The shots of the boy performing the chants and asking for money was shot at an angle similar to eye-level, so as to make the viewers feel they were the ones standing in front of the boy, on the road in Afghanistan. The angle of the shot put me, as part of the audience, directly in the character of the atmosphere. When the crowd of women are running, being chased by the men in carriages, the camera shot is shaking and is at an angle that imitates what a person would really be seeing. The way of filming this makes me feel like I am there, experiencing the drama. It makes the scene very believable and thereby is very effective in drawing me into the subject matter of the film right from the very first shot by making me feel a part of the movie.

In the beginning of Persepolis, we see a “flash forward” of Marjane at the airport, as an adult. She appears very depressed as she sits down in the airport lounge with a very “unimpressed” look on her face smoking a cigarette. For me, this was very successful in capturing my curiosity, causing me to wonder why she appears the way she does; it makes you wonder what brought her to this point. She portrays strange behaviour as she avoids talking to any other characters (including the woman at the airport check in counter). This encourages the viewers to speculate as to what might have happened to get the woman to this stage. It promotes questions such: ‘Why is she alone?’ ‘Where is she going?’ ‘Why is she upset?” “Did something just happen?” “How long has she been this miserable?” Without even revealing the plot or narrative, this draws people into the film through curiosity.

Waltz with Bashir opens with a pack of dogs running down a road late at night, all growling and visually worked up. This portion of the movie lasts approximately 2 minutes. The music in this scene is somewhat eerie, but is very soft and lacking dramatic effect. In my opinion it doesn’t capture interest and curiosity of an audience as successfully in the opening minutes the way that Osama and Persepolis do. For me it did not provoke as many questions concerning the subject matter of the film. It is not abnormal to see dogs running and barking and I believe because this is natural behaviour for animals, it did not spark special curiosity to grasp my attention and draw me into the subject matter of the film the way the other two movies did.


Osama Persepolis Bashir

Jaliya Fonseka
Compare the use of live action/actual sets in Osama to the animated sets in Persepolis and then to the more realistic animated settings in Bashir. Which do you feel is better at conveying the message of the film? Or is each maybe suited to the particular slant of the specific story?

After watching Osama, Persepolis and Bashir with the use of live action and actual sets in mind, it becomes very apparent that each is respectively suited to the particular slant and narrative of the specific story. Each, through its particular method enforces the viewers perception of the narrative, giving each film a uniqueness.
The use of actual sets and scenery in Osama almost generates a feeling of the film being a documentary as oppose to a full production movie. This is very obvious as the first portion of the film is recorded by a character who is later killed for capturing such footage. Throughout the movie the use of the camera infers a feeling of someone capturing the footage as if they were in the scene as it unfolds in real time. This is apparent in shots such as the woman's march at the beginning of the film, where the Taliban enter and everyone beings to run away. The chaos of the scene is captured by the camera almost as if it were a person in the crowd trying to escape. Unlike most films Osama also uses minimal camera angles and very straight forward ones. Again, instigating the feeling of 'an observer's' view as oppose to an actual filmed 'scene' where the camera would slowly pan across or capture the footage through a obscure angle.

The use of live action and actual sets in Osama, however, is very beneficial in telling the story. This is because Osama does not have a complex narrative or plot, rather, it sheds light on the struggle filled lifestyle of the woman in such culture and time period. For these reasons, the movie is in a sense a documentary of sorts. As a result, we do not need a crane to establish a smooth pan over an argument between a Taliban and a woman, rather a shot filmed at eye level where we can experience the actual struggle and misfortune as if we were standing there.

The animated sets in Persepolis and Bashir were also both effective in their own way, as a result of their own story. Persepolis, through the use of a very abstract animation focused on very graphic ways of evoking certain feeling as it was unable to effectively render facial expressions. This usually resulted in the distortion of its sets into very abstract elements that were very effective in understanding portions of the film. The set often became an overlay of silhouettes and other very fluid imagery enforcing the narrative immediately and as abstractly as possible. As the protagonist narrates her story, people and things appear and disappear as required to understand it.

Bashir, being the animation that also provides human detail such as facial hair and expression is also successful in the use of its sets and live action. Since, the animation is to illustrate to the viewer, the story being told by all of the protagonist's past friends, its attention to detail is crucial. It also benefits from its animation style in scenes such as the one where he shoots the street dogs as they were alerting the civilians of the soldiers entry into the city. In this scene we are able to directly see the dogs being shot in animation, where in real life footage it would have been too gory to show. Many other scenes in Bashir, similar to this, benefit from the use of such animation, including the boat scene where his friend tells the story of himself throwing up into the ocean. What would have been an unbearable real life scene is captured as an animation which propellers the narrative but allows the viewer to actually experience the sensory things directly.

3. Osama Persepolis Bashir

Miles Gertler 
Each of the films includes architecture and urban settings comprised of destroyed buildings. Which medium/film do you think is best able to draw you into feeling anxious or even angry about this impact of war?

Siddiq Barmaq’s Osama, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, and Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir all rely on distinct representational styles to convey a sense of anxiety that resonates with their dark content. The wars that generate much of the narrative momentum in each film destroy much of the urban environments in which the action is depicted. To varying degrees of success among the three films, the destruction heightens the aura of anxiety perceived by the viewer.

Barmaq’s Osama is perhaps the most successful of the three. The pairing of an urban environment built mostly of mat-building architecture and the frenzy of action filmed therein is an effective one in the claustrophobia that it generates. Since continuous carpet building, native to the sun-broiled region, is composed of what often feels like a series of interior spaces and courtyards, one is hard pressed to feel as though they are truly outside of a building. When this type of built form surrounding the action looks as though it has been neglected or even destroyed through violence, the audience cannot help but feel a pervasive uneasiness, as if lost within an inescapable maze. Since Barmaq often pairs this setting with frenzied activity – the protesting women frantically running from the Taliban, the following of “Osama” by the mysterious figure, and the chasing of the young girl by her suspicious peers – the consequent anxiety is only augmented.

One of the few times when a single building is filmed from a distance is near the film’s end, from the execution field outside of the mat urban core. From this vantage point all of the surrounding buildings are partially bombed, suggesting that the destruction is inescapable. That the environment is also real, and filmed on location with effectively no budget to modify or stylize it further is effective as it conveys an eerie sense of reality as well.

In Satrapi’s Persepolis, the scene for the film’s action is mostly urban. The destroyed buildings in Tehran are only shown intermittently, and though rendered in a beautiful graphic language, the film’s cartoon style does little on its own to convey a sense of anxiety as a result of the environment. The bold strokes and black and white depiction is effective for its simple portrayal of strong emotional content, but is reductive when it is applied to the setting. In Marji’s most memorable interaction with a bombed building, that near her own apartment, Satrapi uses the limp hand of her former neighbour to express emotional alarm, as the rendering of the building alone is incapable of providing the same effect.

Folman’s Bashir lies somewhere in between the two preceding films in its use of the urban environment as a generator of anxiety. Here, the style of animation is not integral to the development of the narrative, as it is in Persepolis, and does not convey the bleakness of the situation as it does in Osama. It is an aesthetic effect that ultimately renders the destruction as something neutral, since it is too artistic to elicit any sort of anxiety from the viewer. One sees it not as a damaged urban environment, but as a graphic piece that might make an attractive print or architectural rendering. The focus in this film was on the dogmatic use of a tonal effect, which comes at the expense of the setting’s impact. Though the result is aesthetically successful, it betrays the inescapable anxiety articulated by destruction in other films like Osama.


x 4. Osama Persepolis Bashir x

Suzan Ibrahim
Compare the tonality of the three films in conveying their messages. Osama being full colour; Persepolis B/W with colour scenes; Bashir with a range of tones throughout the film.

In Osama, landscapes and materials were always elements close to the atmosphere of the movie. It is the main context in which much is grounded. Bloody scenes became real and uncomfortable, and sad scenes because of loss of hair became very real. Its instant impact becomes the major focus rather than a reading following an event. This is the same impact that the girl experienced in her day to day life where most of her everyday life was lived more as an instant instinct rather than strategies over time.

Within Persepolis, the animation is the predominant effect. This cartoonish effect draws the focus primarily on the storyline within the movie and the reality becomes a lot more distant. This is not necessarily an effective technique, but might have been necessary to keep an anonymity to the events because of its highly political and social engagement of the subject.

Similarly to Persepolis, Waltz with the Bashir has eliminated many details in order to focus more on the actual storyline and leave most of its reading and relation to the actual viewer. However, it contains a lot more context through its warm tonality which makes it somewhat more successful than the simplified animation of Persepolis. Throughout the whole movie, a fictional world is created but it ended accordingly with the actual reality, bringing a strong impact that this "fiction" is in fact a reality by the use of real documented footage of similar events. This becomes a mixture of a "reading" of a movie through its fictional aspects and animation as well as that instant impact by the shock of the real footage in the end.


5. Osama Persepolis Bashir

David McMurchy
Each of the main characters in the films has undergone a tragedy as the result of their "wars". Is one method of filming or presentation of the subject matter more successful than another at drawing you in to empathize with the character?

I found that the different filming/animation methods were effective in different ways in portraying a very difficult subject matter and the character’s experience of war.

In the case of Persepolis and Bashir, the movie is animated and narrated.  This allows for the distortions of memory from the time elapsed to show through, and emphasize that the movies are not simply a recording of events, but extremely personal recollections of traumatizing experiences.  The extremely cartoonish imagery from Persepolis is reminiscent of a childrens’ cartoon, and creates a connection with the character, who’s experiences of war and loss start right from childhood.  The simplicity and starkness of colour helps to distill the ideas being presented and turn them into more than just memories of times gone past, but emotions felt by and between characters who are not lost in the background.

Bashir, on the other hand, uses a definitely more realistic animation technique in its portrayal of war and the characters’ experiences of it.  This method is very effective at immersing the audience into the recollections of war, as animation allows for freedom to recreate events without seeming too contrived.  With deliberately realistic animation, the producers don’t need to attempt to film historical pieces and equipment in actual settings, which could come off as fake.  The animators can instead focus on visiting the sites and taking what parts of them are crucial to the telling of the memories of them (such as the sunset, or the dust, sounds, etc).  Furthermore, by using animations, the producers are able to create very detailed facial closeups in order to capture very potent emotion and transpose them into a recreated, detailed setting, which would be difficult to achieve with live actors.

The movie Osama being shot with live action rather than being animated was a good choice, as the events being portrayed are not particularly specific events happening in recollection, but events that are currently happening to to thousands of young women all over Afghanistan. It lends credence to the idea that this film is a documentary of a child’s life and childrens’ lives rather than a single journal entry of memories (regardless of how powerful these are).  

However good the various methods of filming were in conveying the emotions of the characters for their respective reasons, I found that the most moving films were Persepolis and Bashir, where the events portrayed in the film were distilled to their more basic raw emotions.


6. Osama Persepolis Bashir

Benny Or
The potential and realization of specialized lighting effects is quite different in the three films, largely due to the filming methods. Do you think one medium or the other is more successful? Do you think that any of the films "lost" something in terms of the ability to create lighting effects by their choice of medium?

In the film Persepolis, the majority of the film is depicted in black and white animation and therefore the contrasts between the light and darkness was further pronounced. The use of lighting effects is highlighted through the use of still inked drawings as backgrounds to the animated action. I found that the use of this technique created a very strong contrasts between the moving action and backdrop in which it took place. Because of this method of depiction however, I found that it was distracting in sequences that required lighting to express the atmosphere of the scene. Particularly in the scenes of violence where although they were trying depict violence and darkness, I found it almost slightly comical in that it took on a light hearted graphic novel persona.

Waltz with Bashir was a middle point between Osama and Persepolis for me. Although the animators are to be congratulated on their artistic abilities to represent the atmospheric qualities of the lighting effects, particularly in the scenes where the water is present and the reflection in the moving waves are rendered beautifully. I found that however it still lacked the fluidity that you find in the way natural light casts on objects in reality. The animators did achieve a heightened sense of atmosphere however through the intense saturation of the colours used. The success of their stylistic choice I think is found in the contrast between their use of colour and lighting that dissociated the animated sequence from being a realistic representation and the final sequence where real footage was shown so that not only was it reality but the atmospheric qualities of the animation remained.

Lastly Osama took on a traditional depiction of lighting effects. I personally am more of a fan the realistic rendering of lighting effects because I find that it is the most relatable as we don't normally perceive in animated form. Only real footage is able to capture the fluidity and delicacy of moving light. Both Persopolis and Waltz with Bashir offered the viewers a very different perspective looking at lighting effects but I feel that only through the contrasts between the realistic rendering of light that and it's animated counterpart that allowed the different effects of lighting to be clearly understood.


Osama Persepolis Bashir

William Pentesco
Which filming method do you feel is able to draw out feelings of anger towards the abuse of children? Why do you think this is so?

I believe the filming method of Osama was able to draw out feelings of anger towards abuse of children the most. This is because the cartoonish appeal of the other two films did not embody the same harshness Osama did. The opposite reaction though is that the story behind Osama is completely fabricated (though from true stories) where as the stories in Persepolis and Waltz with Bashir are true.

Animations have a way of expressing violence in a way that it becomes enjoyable, fake, and funny. More so then actual footage of battle would be. The movie that made me react instinctively and initially was Osama over the other two. Though after dwelling on the issues at hand, all three of them tell a similar story of the struggle of children in this life of a war bent country. The story of Osama having to change into a boy to support her family, and the hardships that both her mother and grandmother, and the society put on her heavy. She can’t figure out how to fit in with who everyone is expecting her to be. Espandi, the boy who threatens to turn her in, turns out to be a protector. Defending her boy-ness to all the others. This act of defiance builds up hope in the audience that this girl can pull it off for her family and survive all these hardships, and that all the persecution will end. The cartoon style of Persepolis and the strong-headed defiance of the young girl didn’t make me feel like she was ever in danger of being hurt or abused. There was not an immediate or real threat like that of Osama’s. In Waltz with Bashir I felt that the soldiers were the ones being “abused”. Probably just old enough to be recruited but not old enough to know what was really happening. The end though when it shows the children piled up was a dark moment, coupled with the switch from cartoon to video also made a large impact. The movie did draw emotions, but I feel Osama had a more direct correlation throughout the movie.

I find it funny that I talk about the movie that was the most fabricated as the one that has the most impact. I would have to believe that by the ability to create the story and alter it more freely, the director has liberties to make dark moments darker. With Waltz with Bashir and Persepolis the stories only go as deep into the heart of the matter as the person retelling the story can take it. This means to me that the closeness they have with the subject makes them cut off before it becomes to dark, before they have to relive it. Thus the end result is that the director who is weaving together stories that he has heard but is not completely immersed in is able to make it become more heart wrenching.

8. Osama Persepolis Bashir

Emmanuelle Sainte
Do high angle views have any different impact in the animated films versus the live action film(s)?

9. Osama Persepolis Bashir

Tristan Van Leur
Discuss the impact of the choice of filming method on the presentation of the physical materials in each film. Is there something lost or gained in each film given the restrictions/potential/advantages of the film method?

The materials in the three films are dictated by the desired style of filming set by the director. Each film varied greatly;  Osama was a bleak, realistic depiction of the sad and disturbing tale of a young girl’s life in Taliban occupied Afghanistan.  Persepolis’ style created a story like nature of an aging activist girl, not willing to be suppressed, and Waltz With Bashir shares the shock and lingering effects of traumatic events suffered by soldiers.  Each film chose a unique way to depict each of these things.

Waltz With Bashir effectively used a highly stylized animation technique that successfully depicted the disconnect between real life and time served as a soldier.  It also successfully portrayed these as memories, and dreams, bringing the viewer into the twisted, not quite accurate world of dreams.  Unfortunately, this was not entirely successful.  The lack of recognizable texture within the world often the viewer completely disconnected from the emotion of the film.  The lack of materiality left too strong of dream like feel, and left the viewer disconnected from the powerful emotion of many of the scenes.

In Persepolis, animation is also used.  This time it is black and white with extreme high contrast.  There is absolutely no materiality in the movie, and it reflects very closely the animation within the graphic novel.  The animation of Persepolis although beautiful, detracted from the strength of the narrative; the entire film felt far too light hearted, due to the comic nature of he animation.  It made for an enjoyable approachable film, but lacked the severity that a story like that could, and probably should contain.

Osama was the most powerful film.  It was shot with very little styling and on a tiny budget.  The capturing of realistic materiality, unlike the other two, let the audience feel connected and understanding of the country, which in turn made the events happening far more disturbing.  The live actors and real sets introduced the audience to the real world, which is far more powerful in an emotional tale that a surreal scene.  The lack of materiality in the two other films loses a feeling of reality, and allows the audience to pretend that these atrocities are not actually happening.


10. Osama Persepolis Bashir

Benjamin Van Nostrand
Compare the level of violence that is portrayed in each of the three films. Is it "enough" to make the point or "too little" or "too much"? Speak to the graphic nature or not and bring in the portrayal of violence in any of the other films we have watched this term as it assists your explanation. Do you think that the use of animation positively or negatively feeds into the "success" of the violent scenes.

Animation is an interesting medium for dealing with controversial issues, as it provides the filmmakers with an important opportunity to carefully control how graphic the violence appears. Persepolis chooses to stylize, downplay or abstract many of its acts of violence, either for effect or to reduce the sense of horror associated with graphic violence. Waltz With Bashir almost calls attention to that sense of horror, showing the exposed guts of wounded soldiers lying on the floor of the protagonist's APC.

Though this question is largely a matter of opinion that depends largely on personal taste and even moral view, I would argue that the level of violence portrayed in these films is not only appropriate but even necessary. In this case, when all three films can be seen as commentaries about the state of things in what can all loosely be referred to as the Middle East, a certain level of honesty is needed, however brutal it may be.

Frank depiction of violence is quite appropriate, indeed even necessary, in order to have the discussion brought up by these three films. As long as the violence is depicted in a relatively realistic way, (and most importantly not dramatized or glamorized) it becomes an invaluable tool in evaluating the situation and developing an understanding of it. Granted, much of this content is shocking, but the state of affairs in real life is more shocking, and if the shock of some animated violence might be enough to catalyze some sort of change then it is entirely acceptable.

On a less controversial level, depictions of infringements on human rights, oppression and inequality are all necessary to convey the commentary, why not also be able to freely portray violence?

If these were purely fictional stories, intended to entertain rather than enlighten, this might be a different matter.

The intent in Osama, Waltz with Bashir, and Persepolis is definitely not to entertain as mindlessly as was the case in Sin City or 300, or to provoke an emotional response to build a bond with the protagonist as might be the case in The Wall. Osama illustrates the plight of women under a fundamentalist government, Waltz with Bashir slowly unfolds the trauma of a man facing the horrors of war, and Persepolis recounts the decline in human rights and the identity crisis faced by the arguably regressing Iranian state. All of these narratives share a foundation based in reality of societies which we in the West see as inherently wrong. The depictions of violence are not invented to put people in theatres, they are relatively accurate examples of things that actually happen. As such, I do not believe that the presence of violence in these films is in any way excessive. If anything, the violence in Persepolis feels somewhat restrained. Though necessary in order to keep the visual style consistent, its depictions of violence almost seem whitewashed. In criticizing or opening to discussion contentious or controversial issues, one needs brutal honesty rather than visual euphemisms.

11. Osama Persepolis Bashir

Shane Neill
Compare the effectivenss of the soundtracks in the three films. Do you find one more successful in supporting the narrative of the film?

The effectiveness of the soundtracks is hard to compare among these three films because of the stark differences among them. While all three deal with a protagonist’s life in the midst of contemporary urban warfare, each is filmed within a different genre. Each soundtrack effectively acts within the genre and adds significantly to the overall success of the film.

In Osama there is little interruption in the soundtrack’s fidelity to the actions that are happening on camera that evokes the genre of cinéma vérité. The rawness of the sound, the distortion due to wind, and ambient noise contribute the tone of the film and its representation of reality. The first time the soundtrack is deliberately manipulated to heighten the perception of the situation is when the Taliban attack the protesting women with high-pressure water hoses. The sound of the water is amplified over the screams of the running women, and as the little girl is about to reach shelter, the screams are filtered and distorted to a low growl. The next and most powerful use of the soundtrack is when music is introduced to the scene where Osama plants his|her pony tail and then walks out into the city for the first time as a boy. In the composition by Mohammad Reza Darvishi, a woman sings what can be perceived as a heart-wrenching Afghan lamentation. The piece is composed in a vernacular idiom and as such remains within the scope, tone, and mode of the visual documentation. The last time the soundtrack is evoked is when Osama is in prison awaiting trail. The sounds of the scene are suspended and Osama fantasizes about jumping rope. The sound of this sustains then slowly fades out over the camera’s return to the situation at hand.

Persepolis’ soundtrack also works well within the chosen genre of the film. It is an animated adaptation of a graphic novel that is meant to appeal to a broad demographic. The author remarked that the central message of the movie was that war and sex-based repression can happen anywhere. Therefore the characters were represented in a generic manner—without explicit ethnicity. The soundtrack reflects this representation. The voices are all dubbed in perfect French, and ambient or city noises are generalized (e.g. there are no establishing shots of minarets are used for scenes in Iran, nor are shots of gothic castles used to establish scene in Austria). Furthermore, the soundtrack embraces many traditional aspects of animated soundtracks. The voices of elders are sing-songy while young children’s voices are cloying. Whimsical cartoonish music is also employed at times. For instance, when the father describes to the young Persepolis how the Shah came to power, the soundtrack fully embraces the cartoon within the cartoon by exaggerating sound effects, comical character accents, and “wha-wha” onomatopoeic musical devices. The musical soundtrack is also rather generalized. There is no use of vernacular composition. Later, when Persepolis comes of age, the sound track features western pop music embraced by teens at that time.

Max Richter’s soundtrack for Waltz with Bashir expertly recreates the sounds, music, and atmosphere of the 1980’s Israeli Campaign in Lebanon as the title character tries to reconstruct his lost memories of his role in the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Richter recreates the sounds of the time through the collage of adopted pop idioms, synthesized instruments, and featured rock music contemporary with that era. The opening scenes demonstrate Richter’s techniques for creating sonic nuance throughout the film. The opening credits are scored with bowed vibraphone or its synthesized equivalent that creates a slightly disorienting ambiance. A nightmare scene abruptly interjects. Dogs run through the city scored with synthesized rhythm/bass track and electronic drum that is reminiscent of 80’s suspense or horror films. This sounds so true to the 80’s that one is able to aurally recognize the sequence as a flashback. Also note worthy is the fidelity of the sound effect dubbing. The growling and slobbering of the rabid dogs as they clang into objects in the wet streets achieves a great verisimilitude through expert sound level balance and fluidity of execution. Sounds do not pop out of the texture. The ambient vibraphone score brings the scene back to the present where Bashir describes his disorientation and frequent nightmare. So acutely executed is the soundtrack that the movie could be listened to without any need of images to tell the story. In this manner the reality of the sound lends a sense of documentary reality or believability to the highly stylized images. The remainder of the movie continues this collage of aural fidelity, disorienting ambiance, and reminiscences of songs and sounds of the era.

Comparing such different films is helpful in understanding how a soundtrack successfully operates within the scope and purpose of a film. The soundtrack's purposeful adherence or contrast to the use of images can enhance or significantly alter the translation of the image to the audience.


12. Osama Persepolis Bashir

Michelle Greyling
Each of the films addresses the very different status of women in their respective societies. Which of the films, or filming methods, is able to to draw you into a deeper understanding of the level of injustice of the respective societies?

The narrative of the film "Osama", depict the level of injustice toward woman in Afghanistan in an intense and vivid manner. The theme of the film deal with real issues and actual examples and events of persons having lived in Afghanistan during a time of immense oppression. In the film "Osama", the theme of survival lead the narrative and the film depict the extent of which a young girl had been forced to change her identity to survive in a country where females faced extensive levels of injustice. The theme of the film present a young girl that is forced to change her physical appearance to that of a boy to enable her to work, walk in the streets without a male companion and go to school.

The producer of the film use untrained actors that are real life citizens of the country to further develop the intense emotion that is successfully portrayed throughout the film. The producer further apply film effects to enhance the revelation of the "real trauma" in the country. The burka is portrayed as a barrier or type of prison that the women are being kept hidden with. In the scene where the young woman is on trial, she opens her face to view the proceedings. At that point a guard walks by and pulls her burka forcefully over her face. The producer use sound effects to emphasize the act of the guard pulling the burka forcefully over the girls face. Here again the producer reminds the viewer of the immense injustice that the woman face at this time in Afghanistan. The narrative concludes when the girl is pardoned from her crime of disguising herself as a boy and saved from being executed but instead lead to a worse destiny. The young girl is unwillingly sold to an older man to be one of his many wives without her consent. The film "Osama" draws me into a much deeper understanding of the level of injustice when compared to "Persepolis" or "Waltz with Bashir."

In the film "Persepolis", the narrative follow the theme of the journey of a young girl and how the level of injustice toward females influenced her life immensely. The theme in "Persepolis" tend toward the aspect of running away from the situation of injustice and the portrayal of the loss of identity. This is then compared to the film "Osama" where the girl remain in the society but changes her identity as an act of survival. Both instances deal with the loss of identity due to injustice toward females in their respective societies. Although the film "Persepolis" achieve to evoke a lot of emotion at times, "Osama" portrays the sense of reality more clearly. The main reason for this is not only concerned with the animated medium of "Persepolis" but also the narrative and theme. Both films rely on cause and effect but Osama's effect of the cause seem to be more vivid. In "Persepolis', the young girl suffers a great loss of identity and self guilt when the effects of the political situation Iran force her to live in a vastly different society at a young age. The results of this influence her in many ways after her return to Iran. Many scenes in "Persepolis" take place outside the setting of Iran as the young girl was sent away by her parents to protect her from the injustice in Iran. The film "Osama", on the contrary keep the viewer in the midst of the oppression longer and thus project the levels of injustice more clearly. In both the films "Persepolis" and "Osama" woman had rights but they were taken away by new political powers. This is differentiated from the situation in Lebanon portrayed by the film "Waltz with Bashir" where woman have always experienced a level of injustice.

In the film "Waltz with Bashir" the woman are part of the traumatic event of the massacre and long term cause and effects are not portrayed. The massacre that occurred in "Waltz with Bashir" is a single event that is extremely traumatic. However, I was not drawn by the film to experience the extreme harsh and inhumane injustice that occurred.

13. Osama Persepolis Bashir

Richard D'Allessandro
Each of the films makes use of flashbacks or dream sequences in the narrative. Including other films that we have studied this term, which of the current three do you feel makes the most convincing use of this narrative device and how does this relate to the method that the director used to make the film?

In comparing the films, Osama, Persepolis, and Waltz with Bashir, I believe that Osama makes use of the most resonant and impactful flashbacks or dream sequences out of the three.  The director uses these narrative devices to successfully drive a heartfelt telling of the story, but also describes the quality of genuine human memory and dreams with eerie accuracy, to the point of adding exceptional validation to the heavy horrors portrayed in the film.

The way in which we actually recount moments in time that we have experienced in the past, is really quite peculiar and laden with nuance.  When the mental record is made in our short term memories, we usually only acknowledge select aspects of those moments which have made a lasting impression, or which are accompanied by particularly powerful emotions or insight.  In then passing to our long term memories, the mind abstracts these moments even further before their final consolidation into essential and mysterious orders.  Experiencing new moments that align with these uncharted orders, can trigger our recollection in vast chains.  In dreams, memories emerge and mix into a soup of images and sensations, new and old.  With our bodies idle and no longer accepting experiences in real time, our memories are able to take over and completely supplant our mental faculties.  During a waking state, however, our memories share mental resources with those preoccupied with what is being immediately absorbed by the senses, in the here and now.  Thus, when recalling a deep seated memory while awake, we are presented with mangled mash-ups of super abstracted apparitions and what we can see with our own two eyes.  Depending on the circumstances too, of both the moment recalled and the event recalling, these ghosts can appear bizarre or twisted by the trauma of those events which are violent or profoundly disturbing.
The director presents a true depiction of this surreal quality in our act of recalling memories in our waking state, by projecting what are understood to be abstracted images onto what we recognize as real and current events unfolding in the story.  It is also understood that the recollection of these images is triggered, consequentially, by new events that our minds are supposed to deem related.  This is our impetuous assumption by habit that the director exploits to create his effect.  By carefully exercising control over these images, the director is able to create incredible juxtapositions, the likes of which resonate qualitatively with our own memories.  The vision of Osama skipping is an abstraction; a memory of precious time, calm tempers, and a web of innocence, reduced by memories’ process down to a symbolic object and rhythm of movement.  Among the political, social, and emotional devastation taking place in the context of the story, these soft fantasies emerge as a moral and idyllic counterpart.  If otherwise we would not be able to empathize as an audience, having no past or contrary awareness of that place or people, these narrative devices lend us perspective like surrogate memories.  As an audience then, we can begin to better comprehend and sympathize with the sorrows and emotional burdens of the story, now properly portrayed by the film.


14. Osama Persepolis Bashir

Talayeh Hamidya
Discuss the use of depth of field as a device in the creation of these three films. Is is more or less successful in the live action versus the animated films? Do you think this impacts the ability of the director to tell the story? Maybe the story is changed to suit the filming technique?

15. Osama Persepolis Bashir

Maryam Abedini Rad
Which film do you think did a better job of "telling the truth", particularly given the awards each was given at International Film Festivals (that are largely Western in nature). Did the method of making the film assist or detract from their relative success?

Although these three films are different in their language of telling their stories, but it seems that all of them has their own ways of conveying the points and telling the truth. These languages can be a simple and humor way of telling the truth or a language of reality like a documentary film or even a surreal animated documentary-style. All these kind of movies can be successful and impressive, depends on the power and the way of delivering the truth. I personally, found the Persepolis not more successful but more impressive. It has a very simple way of telling a story to reflex a history of a nation in the form of a biographical narrative.  
Persepolis tells the amazing story of a young girl growing up in Iran around the time of the Islamic Revolution. Marjane Satrapi does a wonderful job of bringing her story to life and drawing the viewer into her what it was to grow up during a time of political revolution. Using a unique style of animation, that closely follows the style of the graphic novel; the audience is pulled into a world that is much different than the world they are used to.

It’s not the voices, though, that make Satrapi’s film so distinctive: that honor goes to her soft black-and-white drawings of characters and foregrounds and her charcoal backgrounds of Tehran or Vienna or Paris. Also distinctive are her precocious child-turned-reflective adult’s eye view of the people around her and the changing fortunes of Iran. Born in 1969, Satrapi’s passage from childhood to adulthood coincided with her country’s own passage from Shah through revolution to Islamic state. Outspoken and disruptive as a smart schoolgirl in the new Iran, Satrapi was sent to a school in Vienna, where she discovered music and men and struggled with the bourgeois apathy of her ‘anarchist’ schoolmates. She later settled in Paris, and it’s a series of inserts, in color, of her as an adult at Charles de Gaulle airport, reflecting on the past, that gives the film its voiceover and sense of reminiscence.

‘Persepolis’ is realism seen through special eyes. Satrapi’s animation, with its stark monochrome palette and soft edges, allows her to stress the warmth of her family while suddenly lunging into the mood of claustrophobia caused by prying relatives, Iran’s moral police or leering men on the street. The shift from French subtitles, which suited the film’s roots in the graphic novel, to English voices (especially with the political undercurrents of Penn’s involvement) may jar a little with anyone who has seen the original, but that’s a minor quibble. This is a delightful, curious film that indulges in both the personal and the political and provides a potted history of modern Iran through one woman’s experience.

This movie beautifully balances both the historic and personal issues and pulls the threads together into a compelling narrative, made a bit quirky by the style of presentation, resulting in work that is altogether touching. Along with intelligence and humor, a deep and strong sense of truth infuses every part of this film, making it even stronger. One of my only qualms was the feeling that it ended somewhat abruptly without much of a conclusion.

Persepolis works because it handles an uncomfortable subject with grace, using a simple but constantly effective storytelling technique and never once pandering to audience expectations with the usual 'ton gimmicks (even the casting proves that: except for Catherine Deneuve, who plays the low-key role of Marjane's mother, there are no famous voices in the feature). It sticks to traditions and stretches the medium at the same time, showing that animation is no longer a "children's genre" and therefore delivering a new way to look at film-making and its possibilities. For this reason, and several more, maybe it is one of the best pictures of 2007.

In Afghanistan, during the Taliban regime, women are forbidden to work and to walk on the streets without the company of a male. The teenager girl Osama cuts her hair and dresses like a boy to get a job and support her widow mother and grandmother. There are no men in her family, since her father and her brother were killed in previous Afghan wars, and the family has no means of survival. When Osama, disguised as a boy, is called by the Taliban to join the school and military training, the boy Espandi tries to help her. She is a passive victim living a life of paralyzing fear, a perfect symbol for all the other women of her country who were consigned to a similar fate.

"Osama" is a film that doesn't intend to do anything more than offers a very small glimpse into what life was like under this tyrannical regime. In that respect, the film provides an invaluable service to those of us in the West who finds it hard to believe that such mind-numbing ignorance and cruelty can still exist in our modern world. We see it, of course, every night on the news, but until an artist can translate it into recognizable human terms, the reality often doesn't hit us in the way that it should. 'Osama' really brings it home to us. Through our experience with these characters, we come to understand how unutterably hopeless and miserable life can be for people trapped in a culture defined by a pre-scientific mindset of irrational bigotry and superstition. The girl, who is dubbed by one of the other characters 'Osama,' is no plucky little heroine who takes on the Bad Guys, indifferent to the dangers she is facing.

"Osama" is a spectacular film, based on true events, and the interpretation of the amateurish cast is so perfect that sometimes the movie looks like a documentary. It is amazing how different from Western cultures is the life, religion, streets, houses of the Afghan people, and how repressed the women are in this evil system. Although being aware of many atrocities of this fanatical power, through articles in newspapers and magazines, this movie is so real and impressive that makes the viewer feel in the skin the difficulties of the life of this poor people. (The language of reality like a documentary film, it is simple and straightforward.)

"Osama" captured many aspects of what life is like during Taliban's occupation, through the eyes of a 12-year old Afghan girl, within 1 hr. 22 mins. - It's more than most Hollywood movies manage to get across in 2 hrs. For a debut feature, w-d Siddiq Barmak delivered a quietly poignant film - it may not be evident at first impression right after seeing the film with the sadness and injustice it burdensomely carries. As I was re-telling the film's plot to someone who missed the showing, it came to me how succinctly the film tells/exposes what the women and children, and men, had to tolerate under such atrocious regime. The poverty level and misfortunate situation/predicaments are almost unspeakable.

Waltz with Bashir:
A one-of-a-kind cinematic experience, Waltz With Bashir tells the story of an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) veteran in search of lost memories, memories that have long since faded following his experiences in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Told through an animated documentary-style with visually-based flashbacks to the war that reinforce the monologues recounting the experiences of several veterans, Waltz With Bashir touches on life in a battle zone, examining not only the physical toll taken on combatants and civilians on both sides but also the short- and long-term mental and emotional effects that define both the outcome of the conflict and shape a man's life long after the cessation of hostilities. Told with a riveting simplicity and animated in a dark, rather crude style that perfectly matches the trauma and emotion of the story, Waltz With Bashir represents one of the more compelling pictures to grace screens in recent years. 

Certainly not an overtly political film, Waltz With Bashir is more of a contemplative effort that seeks not necessarily to preach to its audience, re-write history, glorify war, or completely dismiss war, but rather examine its lasting effects on a man's soul. Not shying away from the realities of combat, the film recounts the dangers of the battlefield and the experiences of several men fighting in a confused situation that often recalls the best War films.

From a technical perspective, Waltz With Bashir delivers a unique and engaging experience, the animation taking on a detailed but somewhat crude appearance. Lines aren't always straight, motion can be a bit choppy, and a generally dark tone defines the bulk of the imagery. This look suits the film wonderfully, all at once encapsulating the terrors of combat but also reinforcing the surreal nature of the narrative where the story is not told through a lens that purports to "be there" but rather through faded and scarred memories that don't necessarily recall every small detail.

Concluding with brief live-action archival footage of the massacre, Waltz With Bashir leaves audiences with imagery that sacrifices the animated, surreal tone of the film for a harsh, cut-and-dry glimpse at the event central to the film. Debuting at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival where it was considered for the Palme d'Or and later nominated for a 2009 Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film, Waltz With Bashir has enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive reception, and for good reason.

In conclusion, if I want to explain whether the methods of making the film assist or detract from their relative success, I can say that definitely it helps, but the nature of narrative is playing the main role and also the language of telling the truth. The genre of the film is also important and can attract its own viewers. In general, it is good to say these awards cannot bring them success but can be helpful in extending the success of these kinds of unique films. Maybe it is worth to say that these festivals are like platforms for these kind of films to be introduced to western world in terms of their culture, customs and history.

  16. Osama Persepolis Bashir  

Jamie Usas
Everything in an animation is purposeful and designed. Discuss the effectiveness of the use of animation in Persepolis and Bashir in creating the settings of the films, in contrast with the reliance on physical sets for Osama. How do you feel about the use of the live action news sequences at the end of Bashir in their contrast with the balance of the film?

Osama, Persepolis and Waltz with Bashir share a common thread of illumination; each weaving it’s own unique path through the often misunderstood cultural history of the Middle East.  Stylistically at polar extremes, Osama (live-action) and Persepolis (animation) treat a common theme of political oppression with remarkably uncommon sensibilities, while Waltz with Bashir (live-action/animation) rests somewhere in-between, both in style and sensibility, suppressing the literal expression of genocide through a dream-like collective memory of wavering accountability. 

Osama’s in-your-face, cinema verite style succeeds in bringing the viewer into a very modest expression of a Taliban occupied Afghanistan.
The opening scene positions a subjective camera as the eyes of a western journalist attempting to document the protest of Afghani women who are unable to work and support themselves do to the laws of a religiously fundamentalist regime.  This creates a very specific “fly-on-wall” perspective for the viewer, suggesting a documentary like experience of the film, even when observing from prominently objective point-of-view camera.  The strength of Osama’s verite-style is the relentlessness in illustrating the desperate environment of oppression and desolation through little more than an unflinching eye.  The texture of the film is that of yellow hot sand on ruin, perforated only by the light blue burkas that symbolize a misogynistic rule.  The viewer is forced to confront each tribulation as though they stood along side the oppressed.

Persepolis, alternately, uses animation to distance the viewer from the details of reality.  The story spans Tehran, Vienna and Paris; however, each city is rendered in the same monochromatic black & white style.  This treatment, by directors Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi, seems to generate a mental continuity across the geography film, suggesting that the oppressive and tyrannical events of one time and place, can in fact easily occur in any other, implying that no border or geographical distance is a safeguard from tyranny.  Unlike Osama, Persepolis vanquishes all texture from each setting.  The stylistic separations are instead allocated to the divisions of present day (multi-toned color render), past (monochromatic black & white) and memory (black & white).  The choice in style suggests that what is of most significance is not the “literal” history interpreted by the film.  Rather, the film focuses on the shifting headspace of the female protagonist, Marji, and how she perceives that changing world around her.

Waltz with Bashir uses a stylized, rotoscopic-like animation to convey the perspective of the unreliable narrator and his fragmented memoires.  The film follows a middle-aged, Israeli veteran of the Lebanon war, as he struggles to recover memories so traumatic that they have been repressed from his conscious mind.  A surrealist quality pervades each scene of the film, urging the viewer to constantly question the truth of scene, or even to question if truth actually exists beyond the memory of the perceiver.  What Bashir excludes in textural detail is replaced with poetic affect generated from the film’s surreal memory sequences.  The filmmaker employs highly stylized and emotionally driven scenes to bring the viewer deeper and deeper into the mind of Ari.  As each memory is revealed, the viewer is confronted with the shifting rational and irrational perspectives of young soldiers forced into a war that they can hardly understand and struggle to relate to.  The film climaxes with a juxtaposition of two sequences focusing on the aftermath of genocide and it’s discovery by Lebanese women and children.  First rendered in the surrealist animated memory of Ari and followed by an actual video clip of the same genocidal event, marking both the end of Ari’s amnesia, and the beginning of global news coverage of Lebanon’s genocide.  The affect of this juxtaposition is sobering.  The film jumps from a surreal, languidly drifting, stabilized frame of dream-like memory to the jittery handheld anxious frame of real events captured in real-time.  The transition between animation and live-action acts like a veil that lifts all the surrealist distance established in the preceding scenes.  The shifted perspective removes the viewer’s relation to Ari and his experiences as a soldier and positions the viewer in the reality of found-footage and the unbearable reality of human beings discovering the genocide of loved ones.



updated 28-Dec-2011 2:35 PM

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