Fast-Food, Dancing, Jokes and Forbidden Love - a story of hope
23 March 2007

I'm afraid I usually give the Academy Awards a miss. I know the parties afterwards are fun and it's a good chance to catch up with all my A-list celebrity friends - but sitting through all those boring speeches in a room full of some of the world's biggest egos! Frankly, darling, it's such a yawn.

So because of the Lowe family's decision to stay at home and play tiddlywinks on Oscars night I missed an interesting story of great relevance to our theme of 'building trust across the world's divides'. This year's winner of the 'Best Live Action Short Film' was 'A musical comedy set in the fast-paced, fast-food world of competing falafel stands in the West Bank.'

This 18 minute film is based loosely on West Side Story and tells of a young Israeli soldier who falls in love with a Palestinian waitress against the wishes of their families. It is the creation of Ari Sandel who describes it as 'a movie about peace and hope'. Despite a lot of discouragement from people who told him it wasn’t possible to make a comedy about a tragic situation and that he would end up 'offending every Jew and Arab in America', he started brainstorming with his co-writer, Kim Ray.

'We wanted to show that both sides were more alike than they care to admit,' he writes on the film's website, 'so we brainstormed a list of things that Arabs and Israelis have in common. When we came up with food and the premise of competing falafel stands, the script began to come to life.

'A major challenge was balance in portraying both sides evenly. Our fear was that we might offend one side and then turn them off the story. Therefore, we made sure that for every joke against one side we had one for the other. Likewise, for every endearing or heartfelt moment for the Palestinians we had to have one for the Israelis. Balance was crucial to staying credible.'

This balance extended to the casting as well. The Israeli characters are played by Israelis or Jews and the Palestinian characters are played by Arabs or Palestinians.

I haven't seen the film yet, but look forward to a chance to do so.

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