Through Animation, a New Breath of Life for the Fallen

April 30, 2017

Source: The Times of Israel


The symbols of mourning for the fallen on Israel’s Memorial Day are vivid and visceral: the wail of the siren that opens the evening and morning ceremonies; scenes of families swarming the graves of their loved ones; the stories, films and accounts of soldiers who fell in battle, in a variety of media.

For six years, Beit Avi Chai, the Jerusalem cultural center, has been producing “A Face. The Day. A Memorial”, in what may seem like an unlikely medium, more often associated with children’s content — a compilation of animated short films made about soldiers who fell in battle, created by young, local animators.

“We wanted to change something in the language of remembering in Israel,” said Yotvat Fireaizen Weil, who launched and runs the project. “The focus has always been on the way someone was killed, their heroism in battle, and how hard it is to remember who they were before they were killed.”

One of the ways in which fallen soldiers are remembered is with documentary-style films, usually made by their families and shown in a steady reel on television throughout the 24 hours of Israel’s Memorial Day. Fireaizen Weil said she felt strongly that anyone who had lost someone faced a nearly impossible task of retaining the memories of how they looked and sounded and felt. “Our sense of that person, what they felt like to us, is lost after they’re dead,” she said. “We’re looking for new languages.”

When Fireaizen Weil first arrived at animation, people were put off. “They said, ‘But animation is Disney and all rosy, and this is about death and darkness. How could it be connected?’” she recalled. She decided to progress with caution. The idea of the animated shorts, just a few minutes in length, is to look carefully at the small details and personal moments that made up the person being remembered: the family dinner, a shared birthday of two brothers who were killed, or the intimate family stories and idiosyncrasies that were only known to a small circle of friends and family.

This year’s selection of films includes “Dad’s Kite,” about Amir Zohar, killed while on reserve duty in 2000, at the start of the Second Intifada. It’s told from the viewpoint of Zohar’s children and dog, a mutt adopted by the family during one of their many outings. The mostly black-and-white line drawings, with touches of color, are slightly smudged and out of focus, a delicate way of connecting to beloved memories. “We connected to this story and the kids’ viewpoint and the dog who was part of the story,” said Daniella Schnitzer, who made the film with her work partner, Omer Sharon. “We felt connected to the father and the trips and the Israeli music, and to them as a whole.”

Read the whole article in The Times of Israel.

Updated: May. 03, 2017