Can movies change the world? In a word, no. But Israeli writer and director Eran Kolirin's utterly charming and engaging The Band's Visit suggests that if we could somehow put aside the politics and the religion, stifle th... more »e governments and the rhetoric, and mix in a little Gershwin, maybe even people with a history of cross-cultural suspicion and hostility really can get along. Not that the film has such pretensions--far from it. This is a simple tale involving a group of Egyptian musicians, the Alexandria Police Ceremonial Orchestra, who arrive in Israel for a concert. Things don't go well; there's no one to meet them at the airport, and they mistakenly end up in a small, drab desert town called Bet Hatikva, a place whose own residents refer to it as "bloody nowhere." But the people, especially café owner Dina (a marvelous performance by Ronit Elkabetz), are friendly and welcoming, and when they urge the band members to stay overnight before heading to their proper destination the next day, strait-laced leader Tewfiq (Sasson Gabai) finally relents. What follows is a series of plain but lovely scenes, as the Egyptians and Israelis (speaking English, their common language) tentatively search for common ground. Khaled (Saleh Bakri), the ladies man of the group ("Do you like Chet Baker?" is his favorite pick-up line), accompanies two young couples to a roller rink, where he comically helps the painfully timid Papi (Shlomi Avraham) connect with his date; meanwhile, the dignified but taciturn Tewfiq gradually warms to Dina's manifest charms, and the other musicians share a rousing chorus of "Summertime" with their Israeli hosts. The Band's Visit is filled with moments of humor, tenderness, tension, sadness, regret, and, as one character puts it, "tons of loneliness," every one of them delivered without the slightest bit of pretension or manipulation (not to mention political or religious overtones). And when, at the end, we finally hear the Orchestra perform, we only wish we could spend more time with all of these delightful characters. --Sam Graham
Stills from The Band?s Visit (click for larger image)« less
'My Funny Valentine': A Little Film with a Tender Message
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/11/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"'It's the wrong time and the wrong place...' - there are so many excerpts of songs quoted in this movie and ones that stimulate memories of old songs that are very much in keeping with the title and the story, THE BAND'S VISIT (BIKUR HA-TIZMORET). A timely piece, this little film is about humanity and the possibility of communication by various means that overcome differences between cultures far better than treaties, summit meetings, and physical and verbal demonstrations. It is a thoughtful, engaging, and completely delightful success.
The Alexandria Police Ceremonial Orchestra with 'General' Tewfiq (Sasson Gabai) rigidly in charge provides music for occasions, and the particular occasion for this venture is a ceremony in Israel. Flying in from Egypt well dressed in light blue uniforms to perform for the new Arab Culture Center, the small band is not met as expected at the airport. Tewfiq attempts to resolve the lack of proper greeting and transportation by reserving space on a bus - a trip that mistakenly (through problems originating in language confusion) results in the band being dropped off in a small village Bet Hatikva. Frustrated with circumstances, the band is met with genial hospitality by café owner Dina (Ronit Elkabetz) who not only feeds them but puts the small band up for the evening. Dina has eyes for Tewfig and plans an evening out on the town with him - an evening that has its own surprises as each lonely person shares life circumstances. The other members of the band are placed in lodging with Dina's workers and at a dinner party discover similarities in their lives. Khaled (Saleh Bakri), a somewhat antagonistic ladies' man, spends an evening with a terrified young man Papi (Shlomi Avraham) on his first real date, and in the course of the evening introduces the fine art of courtship to Papi in a hilarious but touching scene.
The use of English as the common language between these Arab and Hebrew speaking people adds elements of humor as well as moments of sweetness as both the band members and the Israelis grow to know and care about each other. The conversations among each separate group are delivered in Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles and this degree of modified privacy becomes almost more humorous because of the bumpy language barriers shared with the audience. Everyone grows through this short visit and by the time the band departs for their correct destination by the next morning's bus, bonds have been made that preserve the dignity of nationality while overriding the limitations of differences peculiar to each country. This is a quiet, gentle, at times very humorous little movie that offers insights of how to attain global community for us all. Writer/director Eran Kolirin deserves special recognition for assembling and molding this excellent cast for this remarkable, genuinely compassionate statement about important issues. Grady Harp, August 08"
Egyptian Police Band Gets Lost in Israel: Charming Little Fi
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 02/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra gets lost in Israel. After taking a wrong bus from the airport, this small police band from Egypt is stranded at a small, sleepy town in Israel. Tired and hungry, eight members of the band all clad in light-blue uniform decide to stay overnight at the place. Using this simple story, Israeli-born director Eran Kolirin (his feature film debut) has made a very amusing and charming film.
Israel-France-US film "The Band's Visit" relates a set of episodes about the band's members and the local residents. Nothing big happens here, just small things that happen between Israeli hosts and Egyptian guests, but all these small things matter in "The Bands Visit," a bitter-sweet tale that will make you smile in a traditional way, without being too political.
The most impressive part for me is about the band's rigid and stoic conductor Tawfiq (Sasson Gabai) and the restaurant owner Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), who is also an attractive woman (in red dress). Difficulties of communication still lie between them when he reluctantly accepts her invitation to dinner, but they slowly begin to reveal what is hidden deep in their heart to one another (and us) - after all Tawfiq may not be the only one who has been left stranded at this quiet town. The excellent performances from Sasson Gabai and Ronit Elkabetz are really fantastic.
Another memorable episode is an equally charming and almost silent one. It happens at the roller disco scene where one of the band's younger members teaches a timid local boy how to seduce a girl. It is a little gem and you have to see it for yourself to understand that sometimes silence is the best way to tell a good story.
The theme of the film may not be particularly new, and it must be said that this quiet film may require patience for some viewers. Still with the great performances from the cast "The Band's Visit" is a lovely little film with genuinely magical moments."
"No Arab culture, no Israeli culture, no culture at all."
Andy Orrock | Dallas, TX | 04/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Band's Visit" is 87 minutes of perfection from writer/director Eran Kolirin. There's little dialogue, accounting in part to language barriers, but more due to the dearth of things to talk about in the forgotten outpost of Beit Hatikva. Moreover, its residents seem talked-out and beaten down. Beautiful but weary Dina (the wonderful Ronit Elkabetz) nails the essence of the town's residents when she says that their misdirected Arab guests - looking for the Arab Culture Center - will find "No Arab culture, no Israeli culture, no culture at all."
I'm struck by how Kolirin makes those few words matter so much. Over a dozen scenes are stuck permanently in my head a full month or more after our viewing. Two scenes in particular stand out:
- An indescribably well-played wordless piece where jazz hipster Haled (Saleh Bakri) leads an inept Papi (Shlomi Avraham) through his first encounter with a girl. Brilliant direction here by Kolirin.
- A brilliant scene in which band director Tawfiq (regally portrayed by Sasson Gabai) reluctantly reveals the reason behind his romantic reticence. The core of the scene - when Tawfiq says "You are a good women Dina, I am sure of it" - elicts a reaction from Ms. Elkabetz bemoaning a life spent worrying about silly things that don't matter now. It's stirring cinema.
So, now we add "The Band's Visit" to my growing list of Israeli films you must see:
The Syrian Bride Time of Favor Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi Broken Wings Late Marriage - Lior Ashkenazi & Ronit Elkabetz!! Walk on Water Yana's Friends"
A Perfect Little Film
Richard B. Schwartz | Columbia, Missouri USA | 04/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Band's Visit is well described on Amazon's main page. An Egyptian band comes to Israel to play at an Arab culture center in a small town. They arrive at the wrong town and spend the night there, waiting for the next day's bus to take them to their performance site. In the meantime almost nothing happens, except that the Egyptians and the Israelis learn of their common humanity. Nothing 'happens', but they learn everything. The film is sweet, funny, heart-rending at times and cinematically perfect. Each group has its representative figures, the predictability of the varieties of the human spirit underscoring their true humanity and deep commonality. The film has been subjected to some political slings and arrows since there are both Israeli and Palestinian actors working together here. When the director was asked about this, at Ebertfest, he responded that his job is to create art and he has no time for politics such as this. This was the perfect answer. The film is deeply 'political' because it is deeply human, something for which the deeply political often have little time. The performances are very special and the film's warmth and beauty transcends the stark, lonely landscape in which they are revealed. This little film is now the largest-grossing Israeli film every exhibited in America. See it."
Little gem steeped in subtelty and melancholy
Maxim Matusevich | New York | 03/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the most humane and psychologically nuanced films I have seen in years. I don't think the director had ever intended this rather short (and probably low budget) film to be a revelation. But it certainly is... at least, it was for this reviewer. The melancholy wind-swept landscape of an Israeli "middle of nowhere" (if such a thing can exist in tiny Israel) serves as a backdrop to the travails of a hapless band of Egyptian police musicians lost on a tour of Israel. Their chance encounters with residents of a desert Israeli town provide us with a low key but profound examination of human vulnerabilities, of the tenderness of our inner souls. And that Dina... Simply superb!"