8/10/2007

West Bank Story

Director: Ari Sandel

In this 2007 Academy Award Winner for Best Live Action Short, writers Kim Ray and Ari Sandel (who also directs) seek inspiration from lavish, classic musicals including West Side Story. Setting their technically superior staging of a mini-musical amidst the unlikely source material of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Sandel never once takes his film too seriously and instead of getting too politically preachy, centers all the drama around two competing West Bank falafel stands given American fast food sounding names of Kosher King and Hummus Hut, respectively. When soft-hearted Israeli soldier David (Ben Newmark) falls in love with Palestinian Fatima (Noureen DeWulf) a beautiful cashier, the tension escalates and more song and dance ensues. While arguably one of the most creative and free-wheeling works of 2006 (long or short), the concept quickly becomes gimmicky and I found myself strangely distanced from the leads, not feeling all that involved, although still completely awe-struck by Sandel’s talent, which earned him numerous other accolades in addition to the Oscar. Definitely worth a look not only for musical buffs but also as perhaps a way of introducing teens with iPods to look outside the world of MySpace and YouTube to the conflict in the Middle East in an offbeat and non-academic way as the film is available for download at iTunes.


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West Bank Story