Wall (CIFF 2017)

Documentaries are perhaps the least reviewable types of movies. Most of them boil down to whether or not the subject matter interests the critic and if the film delivered enough information about that subject in an interesting enough way to warrant a watch. A couple of years back, a movie called Tower was released (it, too, played at the Calgary Internation Film Festival), which was an animated documentary that used its animation to recreate scenes that couldn’t be done in live-action. This year, we have Wall, which is also an animated documentary—and is reminiscent both of Tower and of the Oscar-nominated Waltz with Bashir.

Wall follows Oscar-nominated screenwriter and playwright David Hare as he journeys around the Middle East and tries to discover the true impact of a wall that separates Israel and Palestine. The film explains to us the history of the barrier while also showcasing the political, social, and economic ramifications the wall has on the region and its people.

Instead of being like most documentaries, which would consist almost exclusively of shots of (1) driving around the Middle East and (2) talking heads, director Cam Christiansen gives us a more visceral visual experience. We’ve got this animation to look at, which has its own unique style. At times, it looks like a black-and-white Telltale Games video game—and that’s meant as a compliment. The few bursts of color come from graffiti—and you’ll be blown away by its final few minutes, which are as poetic as a documentary ever will get. It’s engaging to the eye, and even if you don’t care a whole lot about the Israel-Palestine conflict, it’ll be tough to be bored while watching it because of its visuals. And, hey, maybe you might learn something while you’re there.

Wall contains a lot of information, some of which will be a struggle to retain—that’s true of all documentaries. Hare’s narration is, at times, a bit dry; that’d be a bigger problem if we didn’t have the visual style to fall back on. But it does. The documentary winds up being interesting, informative, and impossible to look away from. It separates itself from the crowd with the way it tells its story and with its visuals—and if you care about the subject matter it is a must-watch.

Conclusion: Wall is an engaging documentary whose animation style allows it to stand out from the crowd.

Recommendation: If you’re interested in the wall between Israel and Palestine, or if you want to see a different-looking documentary whose technical craft you can appreciate, Wall is one to check out.

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