A charming standout feature debut from Israeli filmmaker Eran Kolirin, whose work here explores culture and communication and the importance of co-existence and understanding in a divided world.
Cast: Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, Saleh Bakri
Plot: A band comprised of members of the Egyptian police force head to Israel to play at the inaugural ceremony of an Arab arts centre, only to find themselves lost in the wrong town.
Awards: Won FIPRESCI Prize and Un Certain Regard – Jury Coup de Coeur; Nom. for Camera d’Or (Cannes)
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Subject Matter: Moderate – Culture & Communication
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: The Cathay – Israel Film Festival
First Published: 28 Aug 2008
Middle Eastern cinema is a rich source of films that make profound statements about the human condition, often in ways warm and vibrant. As such, Eran Kolirin’s The Band’s Visit is a welcome detour away from the congested Hollywood highway.
The Israeli film centers on a popular Egyptian police ceremonial band on a road trip to Israel to perform traditional local music in a cultural exchange and appreciation event.
Along the journey, they become lost and helpless, until they chance upon an old suburb inhabited by a few local folks who are kind enough to provide them with lodging and food for the night.
The Band’s Visit pokes fun at the hilarious situations that arise due to miscommunication and the lack of awareness of different cultures.
Kolirin keeps music to a minimum in the film even though it is about a band that performs music. The relevance of music to its narrative is less significant than other aspects such as character interaction and the observance of human nature when it comes to love and friendship.
“This is like asking why a man needs a soul.”
The Band’s Visit allows viewers to acquaint themselves with the main cast rather quickly by not indulging in too long an introduction. The cinematography may not be top-tier, but it manages to capture a vast and desolate land plagued with constant heat and dryness.
This is further highlighted by the bright blue uniforms that fully cloth the perspiring members of the band – a strange sight in a somewhat alien environment they find themselves in.
The Band’s Visit features a sequence that is simultaneously hilarious and poignant – an incompetent young Israeli man attempts to console a shy local woman whom he has rejected for a dance with the help of a play-boyish member of the Egyptian band.
This encapsulates what the picture is trying to drive at – the importance of co-existence no matter how different our backgrounds are, and that love transcends cultures.