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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA alumnus earns oscar nod

    UA alumnus earns oscar nod

    When Ari Sandel walks down the red carpet Sunday night at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, don’t expect him to sing and dance while making falafel. The Oscar nominee will be too nervous about accepting his award.

    Sandel’s film about two competing falafel stands, “”West Bank Story,”” is nominated for the short film (live-action) Oscar. The parody of the famous “”West Side Story”” has seven dance numbers along with comedic dialogue and an entertaining spin on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

    Sandel, a UA media arts graduate, wanted to make a comedy about peace and hope amid tensions in the Middle East.

    “”Many people said you can’t make a film that’s a comedy about a tragedy like the Middle East conflict,”” Sandel said.

    But he did, and his film has gone on to win 25 different awards and has been featured in 115 film festivals, including the famed Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Sandel directed the short 20-minute film and co-wrote it with Kim Ray, a director and screenwriter. When they were having problems deciding what subject matter to include, they tried brainstorming what Palestinians and Israelis have in common.

    That’s when the subject of food, specifically, falafel, came up.

    The falafel stand would drive the theme and the jokes in the movie, but Sandel and Ray encountered problems creating the storyline.

    “”A major challenge was balance in portraying both sides evenly,”” Sandel said. “”Our fear was that we might offend one side.”” Sandel believed this fear would alienate viewers and discourage them from seeing the movie.

    Sandel traveled the Middle East extensively before making the film to become better acquainted with some of the customs. He also did research by reading documentaries and news articles about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

    “”West Bank Story”” took five months to write the script, seven months to produce, 14 days to shoot and five months to edit. The film has been a huge success in the Middle East. Sandel has gotten requests for DVDs from Qatar, Egypt, Israel, Palestine and Gaza.

    Oscar gold just might be his on Sunday night.

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