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FILM REVIEW: West Bank Story a live-action short film (2007)

Published in The POST May 17, 2007

Directed by: Ari Sandel
Written by: Kim Ray and Ari Sandel
Duration: 21 Minutes
(An official selection of the 2005 Sundance Film Festival)


The Middle East is better known for staging violent uprisings, certainly not for inspiring comedic masterpieces.

Since 1967, the West bank has spawned a surge in Arab hostility, frequent visits to the Middle East by Condoleezza Rice and lately, a small little inspirational musical comedy about competing falafel stands, directed, co-written and produced by Ari Sandel (part Israeli, part American Californian native). Since there is no easy way to represent both sides fairly, the very notion of West Bank Story is greeted with a justifiable mix of scepticism, wariness and resentment at first. No doubt, it is a precarious balancing act that mandates such a film to be witty without being offensive, show compassion without discrimination and entertain without losing substance. So does West Bank Story deliver?

West Bank Story is an over the top, comedic if simplistic interpretation of an ongoing and tragic feud. Premiering at the Sundance film festival, this musical embraces the stereotypes with evident glee in a brazenly subtle, wickedly funny musical comedy where thrown together are two competing falafel restaurants (suspiciously like two very well-known fast food franchises) with the archetypal Israeli (acted by Jews/Israelis) and Palestinian characters (enacted by Muslims/Arabs). The pairing of David, a dashing Israeli soldier and Fatima, an equally attractive Palestinian girl, completes the heartfelt little tale amidst a bizarre setting of indisputable deadly rivalry and food.

Ari Sandel skates on thin ice, takes several liberties, but gives a credible performance nonetheless with a well-meaning film that manages to capture some defining and contentious moments of this ongoing conflict, notwithstanding its outrageous humour and Arabs/Jews dancing to some memorable if conventional Arab tunes. Some familiar faces are also seen from AJ Tannen who played the Mossad agent in NCIS (2005) to Naureen Dewulf from Numb3rs (2006).

A year and a half went into the making of this 21 minute film and though the concept appears to be both unconventional and risky, the storyline itself is clever and compelling. West Bank Story has so far won 25 festival awards out of 112, including the coveted Oscar.

Enjoyable from start to finish, I recommend West Bank Story to anyone with a sense of humour and also those in need of one, for this film will restore the lost goodwill for 21 minutes anyhow.

See the trailer at http://www.buzznet.com/tags/comedy/video/65981/ and download music for free or buy DVD from http://westbankstory.com/

Images Courtesy of: http://www.debbieschlussel.com/archives/westbankstory.jpg

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