How do you make the iconic West Side Story a bit more diverse and interesting? It’s simple. Just replace the streets of New York City with the sands of the Middle East’s Israeli-Palestinian conflict and add fast food falafel. Then you’ve got yourself West Bank Story.
West Bank Story was directed by Ari Sandel and won an Academy Award in 2007 for best live action short film, and deservedly so. So what makes this movie Oscar worthy? It’s creativity. It’s smart and clever but doesn’t go over the top with the Jewish/Muslim jokes. Each joke serves a purpose and makes the subject matter light. At one point the romantic female lead remarks in reference to her kabob-hat and Hummus Hut attire, “Do I look like a suicide bomber? Like I’d be caught dead in this outfit?” It took a couple of seconds but I got there, as was the case for many of the jokes. But once I got it I so appreciated the laugh.
Every day we hear more and more about this war or that war or another Middle Eastern problem. West Bank Story says to those issues: Can’t we all just get along? Obviously, reality can’t be all pitas and chickpeas but it’s nice to know that a few song and dance numbers can make it look possible.
If I’m being completely honest, the main reason I enjoyed West Bank Story was because of the spontaneous musical numbers. Those get me every time. There’s just something about a song that makes me care about a movie more. Not to mention if that song is a parody or making political subjects a form of entertainment. Plus, who doesn’t love a giant dancing menorah?