Monday, February 26, 2007

West Bank Story - So, It Won

Well, the film I previously blogged about (here) won the Oscar for "BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM".

Here's Ari Sandel talking about this film which cheapens the conflict in my opinion:-

I made a comedy musical about Israelis and Palestinians that takes place between two falafel stands in the West Bank. It is a story about peace and hope and I made it with the intention of showing a subject, that is typically portrayed as hopeless, from a new perspective. I wanted to convey my belief that peace in the Middle East can and will happen and that both sides are more alike than they think. I thought a comedy was the best way.

Everyone told me I couldn't make the movie. It was my first film and my graduate thesis. People warned me that I would piss off everyone on BOTH sides, I would kill my career before it started, I would never be able to make LA look like Israel, and most of all, they told me that you can't make a comedy out of the tragedy in the Middle East. I believed them and so I stopped writing the film. My co-writer, Kim Ray, and I shelved it for 5 months but as I told more people the idea of West Bank Story (all I had was a title at the time), I could see people's eyebrows raise and then they would say "its called what!?" I knew I was on to something so we started again. Once we formulated the competing falafel stand premise it wrote itself.

In finally making the movie, I defied every piece of advice a short film director gets..."Don't do period pieces or foreign environments because it will be too expensive" - we turned a set, in Santa Clarita of all places, into an Arab village in Israel -- no small feat.

...It has screened on every continent except Africa and has even received accolades from audiences that have nothing to do with the conflict -- Spain, Switzerland, China, Canada, and the list goes on! Most importantly it screened in Dubai (a country that does not recognize the State of Israel) [really, I think actually it does] and was received warmly and openly as it was the first time that Arab audience had seen the subject in this light. It has played in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and the reactions have been the same. [er, Ramallah? Jericho? Shschem? Hebron?]

We made the movie to counter the wave of informative but negative and seemingly hopeless documentaries and news reports about the situation. We wanted to make a film about hope and I think that message is what people have embraced. It has been the most personally fulfilling project I have ever worked on.

...What was the hardest challenge/obstacle on the movie?
1. Keeping this movie even-handed and balanced was our biggest obstacle. This movie was about balance in every aspect. I knew it would be scrutinized by both sides and the credibility of the film would be questioned if it was deemed biased to any one side. I didn't want to have anyone walk out of the movie before they got the message of hope. For every joke about Palestinians, we had to counter it with one about Jews. For every endearing moment with the Jews we had to have one with the Palestinians. I think we did a pretty good job with the balance.

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