One Suicide Bomber Kabab, please

Posted on March 6, 2007


A few days ago I downloaded and watched West Bank Story, winner of this year’s Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film (I don’t know what, exactly, those are). Although I think that humour is basically the best way to deal with any problem, this does not extend to political issues, which I think are served very poorly when people try to deal with them in a humourous way. Oscar Wilde once said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” I assume this is the idea behind, say, Jon Stewart; but I disagree (although Oscar Wilde is usually on top of my head). Another contemporary wit, the sandmonkey, seems to hold the same view. It makes me feel faintly sick when people find large-scale tragedies funny, even darkly so. He says, however, that it’s the next phase after helpless rage and apathy. I’m still waiting.

But this film manages to tread the line without belittling anyone or anything. The writer/director, Ari Sandel, says he tried to keep the number of the jokes even so as not to offend anyone, and I think it worked. The story centres around two competing falafel joints in the West Bank, Kosher King and Hummus Hut, run by Jews and Palestinians respectively. Besides, who can resist a dude with side curls clicking his fingers at a dude in a kuffiya? And ensemble dance numbers performed by people in hijabs and Star-of-David bling? Not me. The Arab characters actually are Arab, too – it’s a pet peeve of mine when that doesn’t happen. They seem to have taken particular care to effect this, according to the website.

Anyway, somehow such unlikely events as veils being worn with short-sleeved open-necked tops and a Palestinian chick-IDF guy love story didn’t grate on me as they normally would (my disbelief doesn’t suspend very far). I did, however, experience a twinge when the two fast food joints catch fire and both parties are forced to join together to prepare food for a long line of mixed customers. That is the core lesson – co-operation and love and all that shit. Now, is no one else familiar with the strong requirements of kosher food preparation? Separate plates and ovens and utensils….the mere presence of meat and labnah on the same premises would throw everything off. Not that falafel and hummus are in any way “Jewish” foods, although I have noted that the cultural occupation believes so (that and everyone who went to my law school). OK, I will concede that it may be a Sephardic food, seeing as that appears to be a way of avoiding the use of the term “Arab Jew”.

Still, fun viewing. Not enough song numbers are performed these days with camels nuzzling the singers’ necks.