The Band's Visit (ביקור התזמורת) Made in: Israel Language: Hebrew, Arabic, English Director: Eran Golirin Starring: Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, Saleh Bakri Year: 2007
Synopsis: The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra from Egypt, made up of eight men, arrives in Israel. They are scheduled to play at the opening of the Arab Culture Center in the city of Petah Tiqva. But because no one was there to meet them at the airport, they have to find a way to get there on their own.
Under the leadership of the ever-formal, stick-in-the mud Colonel Tewfiq Zacharia (Sasson Gabai), things go further awry when he orders the youngest member, Haled (Saleh Bakri) to buy bus tickets. Due to miscommunication, Haled goofs up the purchase and the band arrives in the fictional town of Bet Hatikva instead, which is in the middle of the desolate Negev Desert.
Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), a tough but kindhearted restaurant owner, awkwardly befriends them. She then arranges for the various members to spend the night at her home and at the homes of several of her friends. The evening turns out to be a challenging and humorous ordeal for all, as they gradually set aside political differences and get to know one another as ordinary people.
The Good: The Band's Visit is a pretty moving film. The basic storyline is simple, and most of the substance comes from the characters. Knowing that the tension between Arabs and Israeli's will be foremost on your mind, director Eran Golorin effectively underscores this issue in subtle but powerful ways throughout the film.
Without relying heavily on dialogue, The Band's Visit is mainly a movie about cross-cultural understanding, and the facets of love, heartbreak, and loneliness that are universal.
Most interesting are the exchanges between the characters played by Ronit Elkabetz and Sasson Gabai. They come across as real people, and the transformation of Gabai's uptight Tewfiq Zacharia is both heartfelt and funny.
Full of genuine emotion and humor, Golorin challenges us to put humanity first and political boundaries second without in-your-face preachiness.
The Bad: As good as it is, The Band's Visit does feel a bit incomplete. The exchanges between the rest of the band members and other citizens of Bet Hatikva were also interesting, and I wish we could have seen more of that.
Also, the implied father-son dynamic between Tewfiq and Haled should have been more deeply explored. It's not a huge gripe of mine, but I think it would have been a nice touch.
Who would like this movie: You'll like The Band's Visit if you appreciate foreign films that deal with cross-cultural themes, and if you have an interest in life in the Middle East.
This film is slow-paced, so it does take patience to get through. But every scene is full of meaning, and adds up to a story that has a lot of personality.