'West Bank Story' Tells Tale of Star-Crossed Lovers West Bank Story, this year's Oscar winner for best live action short film, is a takeoff on West Side Story and features a star-crossed love affair between an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian woman.
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'West Bank Story' Tells Tale of Star-Crossed Lovers

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'West Bank Story' Tells Tale of Star-Crossed Lovers

'West Bank Story' Tells Tale of Star-Crossed Lovers

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not normally debated in the terms of musical comedy, but last night, filmmaker Ari Sandel won an Oscar for doing just that. He won Best Live Action Short Film for "West Bank Story," a takeoff on "West Side Story."

(SOUNDBITE OF "WEST BANK STORY")

BLOCK: (Singing) If only our stupid neighbor wasn't the Kosher King. Never open on Shabbat, our problems would be not a lot, if only our stupid neighbor wasn't the Hummus Hut.

NORRIS: Director Ari Sandel says the idea for the film was pretty simple to begin with.

ARI SANDEL: And so I kind of felt compelled to go back to it. And then my co-writer Kim Ray and myself said we have to come up with a way that shows that both sides are really more similar than they care to admit. So what are some things they have in common? All right, well, one of the things was food. I said what if it was actually about falafel stands and from there it really started to come to life and the comedy was really, you know, made, I think, accessible.

NORRIS: Unidentified Man (Actor): (As Character) Wait! Sir.

BEN NEWMARK: (As David) Stop right there.

DEWULF: Unidentified Man: (As Character) She's got a package. We've got a live one.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD GASPING)

DEWULF: (As Fatima) No. Wait.

NEWMARK: (As David) No, it's okay. It's okay. She says it's hummus.

DEWULF: (As Fatima) Hummus.

NEWMARK: (As David) Hamas. Hummus.

DEWULF: (As Fatima) Do I look like a suicide bomber? Like I'd be caught dead in this outfit?

NORRIS: A suicide bomber who wouldn't be caught dead in that outfit. And we should say that she's wearing - Why don't you describe what she's wearing?

SANDEL: Yeah, we designed the costumes to be as hokey, kind of fast-foody as possible. So the Palestinian Hummus Hut has kabob hats that look like, literally shish kebobs.

NORRIS: Shish kebobs that extend on either side of their heads.

SANDEL: So yeah, she shows up in her Hummus Hut outfit at the checkpoint wearing this ridiculous outfit, so that's what she's referring to.

NORRIS: I understand that you screened the movie in Dubai. What kind of response did you get there?

SANDEL: The response in Dubai was phenomenal. You have to realize that Dubai is a country that doesn't recognize the state of Israel.

NORRIS: That's why I asked that, yeah.

SANDEL: Yeah. And the movie was received incredibly well. I will say, in the first screening, there was a 10-minute Q&A that went an hour and a half. No one wanted to leave, and the first couple of questions were from Arabs who were like, look, I hate your movie. I don't understand it. It simplifies a situation. It doesn't show the suffering of the Palestinian people. I didn't learn anything.

BLOCK: And the same guy at the beginning who said, I hate your movie, came up to me afterwards and said, Look. I still don't like your movie but I'm glad you're here and it's important that you made the movie.

NORRIS: Ari Sandel, congratulations.

SANDEL: Thank you so much.

NORRIS: That was Ari Sandel. He won an Oscar last night for the best live action short film, "West Bank Story."

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