Oscar glory for Ari Sandel's 'West Bank Story'

Comedy about two competing Israeli and Palestinian falafel stands awarded best live action short film.

ari sandel 298.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
ari sandel 298.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
There was a time when Hollywood's most prestigious awards ceremony was a rather homogeneous affair. But the Oscars have come a long way in recent years, and the red carpet has never looked more colorful or ethnically diverse. Acting as Oscar host for her first time, Ellen DeGeneres noted the multicultural nature of the nominees in her monologue. "If there weren't blacks, Jews and gays, there would be no Oscars," she said, adding: "Or anyone named Oscar, when you think about that." One particular Jewish nominee was floored at Sunday's awards when he was handed one of Oscar's coveted statuettes. Ari Sandel's short film West Bank Story tackles the serious issue of the conflict in the Middle East with humor. It runs just 21 minutes long, but its satirical content clearly spoke volumes to Academy voters. In the film, Sandel, 32, spins the classic love tale of Romeo and Juliet, applying its story line to two competing Israeli and Palestinian falafel stands in the West Bank. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post prior to his win, Sandel described himself as "obsessed" with the Middle East. His Israeli father might have had something to do with that. "This film is about hope and peace between Israelis and Palestinians," Sandel said while accepting his award. "So many other people support this notion, so perhaps hope is not hopeless." In an earlier interview, Sandel said he "initially thought about shooting [the film] in Israel" but said it was too difficult and expensive to do. "I really wanted to convey the idea that I don't believe the situation between Israelis and Palestinians is going to go on forever. I think peace between the two sides is inevitable. If you watch enough news, you'll be led to believe that this is going to go on forever. So I was hoping that this would be a drop in the bucket for the other voices." Israeli composer Yuval Ron wrote the songs and score for West Bank Story. Sandel was not the only Jewish nominee to walk away a winner. Sherry Lansing, former head of Paramount studios and an activist in civic and Jewish charities, was presented with the Academy's Humanitarian Award. Jewish actor Alan (Wolf) Arkin managed to beat out Eddie Murphy, a favorite to win the best supporting actor award. Arkin played a heroin-smoking, womanizing grandfather in Little Miss Sunshine. Jewish British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Borat), failed to take the stage with a win for adapted screenplay, losing out to Martin Scorsese's The Departed.