27 February 2007

Singing - Dancing - Must Be the West Bank!

By now you movie buffs will certainly know that Pan's Labyrinth won three Academy Awards, though not the one for Best Foreign Language Film (that went to The Lives of Others, described as "a German wire-tapping film).

SoundRoots readers, who tend to have a global scope to their entertainment choices, will also have noted that the Best Live-Action Short Film Oscar went to a truly cross-cultural work. West Bank Story is a 22-minute-long Middle-Eastern satire/take-off of West Side Story, which was a modern adaptation of some crusty old English play in which everyone dies.

West Bank Story hasn't come this way yet, though we're eager to see it. In the meantime, we've got an exclusive interview with the film's music director, Yuval Ron.

SoundRoots: How did you get involved in doing the music for West Bank Story?

Yuval Ron: The director Ari Sandal was looking for a composer who could do Bernstein plus East European Jewish Klezmer plus Arabic. He started asking around in the LA film and music scene and was told: call Yuval Ron.

SR: Was the music from West Side Story echoing in your head? How did you deal with that?

YR: Of course it did, that WAS the job!!! I had to recall some beautiful treatments of Bernstein in orchestration and in song writing in order to make the movie the crazy spoof that the director wanted it to be. Just like other composers in the history (see Beethoven through present day composers) could quote or paraphrase musical treasures of the past in a meaningful ways, that is how I approached the challenge of writing original new music that would recall Bernstein's West Side Story but in present day Palestine.

SR: What are the challenges and benefits of dealing with such a heavy subject through comedy? How is this reflected in the music?

YR: We had to take another perspective of it, which was refreshing and also brought out the element of ridicule that is in that conflict.

SR: How did you choose the musicians and singers to work with?

YR: I used Broadway singers who sang on Disney movies as well and who are the best in the business for musicals. These singers worked for me before on various projects and I love to work with them, they are the very best! The orchestra musicians are professional film and TV players who work in LA on many film productions and worked for me on numerous other films scores which I composed and the ethnic musicians are members of my ensemble The Yuval Ron Ensemble.

SR: How does the music reinforce the message of the film?
West Bank Story still
YR: The music makes the audience feel the emotions that the director and writers hope they invoke. The music make you identify with the heroes, bring out their humanity and make you like them more. The music make you laugh and the music opens the heart, softens the heart so you may feel rather than think!

SR: Were you watching the Oscars? How did it feel to win? What were the first words out of your mouth?

YR: We watched it at an Oscar party for the cast and crew of West Bank Story in Malibu, California. It as an incredible explosion of emotions of happiness and release of tension. I jumped to my feet with my hands up high and I screamed: YES!!!!!!!

Songs from the soon-to-be-released soundtrack:

  • West Bank Story was the first film featured on MySpace Film
  • The competing falafel joints in the film are Kosher King and Hummus Hut
  • Yuval Ron has also created music for 15 Films about Madonna, America's Most Wanted, Planet's Funnies Animals, and Spiderman, among many TV shows and films.

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