THE BAND'S VISIT Send This Review to a Friend
Gentle, sometimes funny and sometimes wistful, “The Band’s Visit” homes in on the wish that people of different nationalities and cultures could get along peacefully. Writer-director Eran Kolirin strikes such a note involving a police band from Egypt arriving in Israel to give a concert at an Arab cultural center. There’s a problem. Nobody is there to meet it. The Alexandra Ceremonial Police Orchestra has arrived in the wrong town.
The eight stranded musicians make a hapless lot at first. But when they come upon an Israeli restaurant seemingly in the middle of nowhere, they are in luck. The restaurant owner, played by Ronit Elkabetz, has a matter of fact way about her but is generously hospitable. She offers food and invites some members of the group to sleep over at her apartment, and gets friends to put up the rest. There is no bus until the next day.
Sasson Gabai plays Tewfiq, the bandleader, with reserve, trying to maintain his authority and dignity in the face of the mix-up. He has trouble dealing with the brash violinist, Haled, portrayed by Saleh Bakri, who has an eye for the ladies and is more concerned in that department than whether the band can get back on schedule.
One-night stand possibilities are there, but the film’s thrust is depicting how the interplay between the visitors and the natives builds to a level of comfort and respect. Not a lot happens in terms of action, but much happens in the way the human spirit breaks through cultural barriers. Of course, Israel and Egypt have long since made peace, so it is difficult to transfer the accomplishment to current Israeli-Palestinian face-offs. But the good will example is there, packaged in the form of this sly entertainment. A Sony Pictures Classics release.