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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA alum discusses short film

    Since graduating from the UA with a media arts degree in 1998, Ari Sandel has seen his short film “”West Bank Story,”” a humorous approach to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, premiere at 167 film festivals around the world, including the Sundance Film Festival in 2005. In 2006, the film won an Academy Award for “”Best Live Action Short Film.””

    Sandel is on campus today promoting his film in a free screening at noon in the Student Union Memorial Center’s Gallagher Theater. He will discuss the film afterward.

    Wildcat: Laughter isn’t exactly what comes to mind when one thinks of Palestinians and Israelis. Was it challenging turning the conflict into a comedy?

    Sandel: People always think you can’t portray tragedy with comedy; (with comedy) you can deal with a really controversial subject and present it in an even-handed way. That was a major concern for me – to accurately portray both sides so that Arabs could watch it and get it and not be offended, and so Jews could enjoy it.

    W: What do you think of Hollywood films that try to portray Middle Eastern politics?

    S: I feel there are a lot of films that are informative and interesting but are designed to make you hate the other side. They don’t take the other side into consideration and sometimes are blatantly inaccurate. With my film, I had to have Arab or Muslim and Jewish actors representing the characters.

    W: What do you want students to walk away with after watching your film?

    S: So many films on Middle East politics and documentaries on Israel and Palestine make audiences think there isn’t any hope in the region. I have Arab and Jewish friends and I’m political. College is a time to branch out and try to understand other perspectives. I believe in a two-state solution and I don’t think the situation is hopeless. I definitely want people from all sides to watch the film and feel that they are represented appropriately. I want audiences to walk away feeling like there is hope and that it is worth caring about.

    W: Has winning an Oscar gotten to your head?

    S: (Laughs) Well, it’s made things easier. But I’m still struggling to make another film. It has given me a certain amount of heat and put me in the door with studio executives, but I still have to work hard.

    W: What’s next for you? Any follow-up films about the conflict?

    S: My next movie is (about) Vince Vaughn’s “”Wild West Comedy Show,”” about what comedians have to go through. I was at the UA promoting the tour a couple years ago. Everyone should check it out. (Laughs) How’s that for a plug?

    W: How did attending the UA prepare you for your career?

    S: At the UA, I learned that I liked to make movies. I didn’t know that going in, but I went to the UA to have a good time – and I did. It was really the friends I made who helped me the most. My three closest friends ended up getting me the jobs. I hosted a travel show, and that came about after my buddy’s girlfriend, who worked at FOX, gave me the tip and some inside information that helped me prepare for the interview. It’s all about the contacts.

    W: Any advice for college students thinking about “”real-world”” jobs?

    S: Polish up on your social skills. Everyone has an education but if you can’t talk to people, no one is going to feel comfortable around you. Get an internship and start doing it. Also, study abroad and travel. If you don’t take advantage of the time to do that now because of money or school or whatever, I guarantee that time will never come. Anyone who doesn’t spend time abroad is making a huge mistake.

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