Local gets Oscar nod

Point Dume resident Dan Sandel could be the proud father of an Oscar winner on Sunday. His son, Ari Sandel, has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Film for “West Bank Story.” The Middle East take-off of the classic “West Side Story,” was directed, produced and co-written by the young filmmaker as part of his master’s program at USC. Dad Dan Sandel, step-mom Lori and sisters Tali, Maya and Lee were cast in the film, which was shot in Santa Clarita.

Ari Sandel said his film is more than a musical comedy set in the fast-paced, fast food world of competing falafel stands.

“I wanted to accomplish three things with the movie,” Sandel explained. “I wanted to make a film that would make people laugh, I wanted to make a film that was pro-peace and offered a message of hope, and I wanted to address the situation in an even-handed and balanced way.”

Sandel studied media arts at the University of Arizona in Tucson where he received a special certificate in Middle Eastern studies and earned a MFA in directing at USC’s school of Cinema-Television. His first directorial feature, a documentary called “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights-Hollywood to Heartland,” premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.

“West Bank Story” has appeared in more than 100 film festivals, including its premiere at Sundance and it was judged Best Live Action Short at the Malibu Film Festival. Although Sandel has gotten used to the attention on the festival circuit, he never expected anything like an Oscar nod.

“After Sundance I thought it doesn’t get any better than this,” Sandel said. “But then all of a sudden my phone rings at 5:30 in the morning and it’s been ringing ever since.”

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