Waltz with Bashir is an incredibly rare bird, a 2008 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film that could've just as easily ended up in the documentary or animated feature categories. Though it lost out Sunday night to Japan's Departures, Ari Folman's uniquely realized investigation into the experiences he'd had and forgotten while serving in Lebanon with the Israeli Defense Forces is a winner nonetheless.

Waltz with Bashir is an incredibly rare bird, a 2008 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film that could've just as easily ended up in the documentary or animated feature categories. Though it lost out Sunday night to Japan's Departures, Ari Folman's uniquely realized investigation into the experiences he'd had and forgotten while serving in Lebanon with the Israeli Defense Forces is a winner nonetheless.

What begins with a nightmare of being chased by a pack of 26 dogs turns into a search for former army comrades who can fill in memory gaps. The conversations with these graying, thoughtful men bring the dawning realization that Folman's mind had good reason to block out this part of his youth. The filmmaker then takes the next therapeutic step - sharing incidents and images he'd long kept hidden.

As his extraordinary story sheds light on dark but fascinating elements of modern Israeli history, his experiences both in the past and in its rediscovery should touch a universal nerve among veterans of war. Folman definitely evokes appropriate feelings of horror, but by choosing animation, he seems to be sparing us - and himself - from the worst of it.