Lost youth.

In 1982, following the assassination of Lebanese president-elect Bashir Gemayel, Israeli Defense Forces allowed the Lebanese Phalangist militia to enter two Palestinian refugee camps, where they slaughtered at least 300—and possibly as many as 3,000—civilians. Filmmaker Ari Folman, at the time an Israeli soldier, was there, but he can't remember a thing. "The truth is, that's not stored in my system," he says.

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Attempting to excavate his suppressed memories, Folman recorded interviews with fellow soldiers, journalists, friends, and his therapist; he then animated their accounts in a series of dark, disjointed, somnambular episodes. The finished product is stunning: weird, angular dreams of snarling dogs, bodies wrapped up in shining bundles, yellow skies, silent swimming, sudden death, gigantic women, boys walking out of the sea, and people being swallowed up by shadows. Somehow all of it feels more accurate than any film documentary—certainly one based on painful and foggy recollection—ever could.

The full story of what happened in Lebanon in 1982 emerges slowly, as Folman's aging Israeli peers grapple with the implications of their involvement—however peripheral—in an organized massacre (the capital-H Holocaust looms frequently on all sides). All the humor and horror of teenagers at war—forging friendships, playing music, joking, killing, dying—comes across with calm, wry honesty, thanks to Bashir's narrators: middle-aged men trying to uncover a youth that they're not sure they want to remember. recommended