The Band's Visit
Written by Edward Moran
The premise is as uncomplicated as it gets: stymied by language and cultural barriers, a group of tourists gets lost in a foreign country. The group happens to be all male, so testosterone will have its way, but only so much. Despite their bumbling and surface ineptness, the guys somehow manage to maintain their dignity and poise in a situation that puts them squarely on a major fault line in today’s fractured world: the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The group of tourists is a police band from Alexandria, Egypt who travel to Israel to play at the
dedication of an Arab cultural center. For some reason, their hosts fail to greet them upon arrival, and the musicians, confidently arrayed in powder-blue uniforms that make them look like a high-school band in Kansas in the 1960s, must fend for themselves in a strange land. Because of the linguistic ineptitude of the group’s Casanova, an otherwise lovable dude named Khalid (Saleh Bakri), the eight men end up in a remote village in the Israeli desert when an information attendant misinterprets the name of the town they’re looking for.
The band spends only twenty-four hours in the mistaken location, but what a day (and night) it is. They are taken in by the Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), the female proprietor of a local restaurant, who bunks them out with various friends. Predictably, Khalid goes out on the prowl, much to the discomfort of the band’s leader, Tewfik (Sasson Gabai), a fiftysomething man who tries to maintain some degree of military discipline but ends up a hapless chaperon to his younger charges.
But this is not just a film about youthful hijinks. The sexuality is subtle and nuanced, with nary a hint of dionysiac frenzy. Adolescent groping at a roller skating rink is about as risqué as things get here. The beauty of this film is that we see human characters simply being human, even when their worlds are upset by a clash of cultures. Perhaps the most touching scene of all involves the midnight dialogue between Tewfik and Dina when he reveals, poignantly, his own relationship with his wife and the death of their presumably gay son.
This is a satisfying and kindly film, one that tells its story quietly and without special effects or plot gimmicks. It is designed to provoke chuckles, not guffaws; satisfaction, not shock. Written and directed by Eran Kolirin, “The Band’s Vistit” is a little gem of a flick that makes one wish the world’s conflicts could be resolved with such wit and warmth.
Written and directed by Eran Koliri
Director of photography:Shai Goldman
Edited by Arik Lahav Leibovit:
Music by Habib Shehadeh Hann
Production designer:Eitan Levi
Produced by Eilon Ratzkovsky, Ehud Bleiberg, Yossi Uzrad, Koby Gal-Raday and Guy Jacoel
Released by Sony Pictures Classics.
Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes.
Cast: Sasson Gabai (Tewfiq)
Ronit Elkabetz (Dina)
Saleh Bakri (Haled)
Khalifa Natour (Simon)
Imad Jabarin (Camal),
and Tarak Kopty (Iman).