, 87 min, 2007
Director: Eran Kolirin
Writer: Eran Kolirin
Stars: Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, Saleh Bakri
Eran Kolirin’s The Band’s Visit is a winsome fable – a warm, quietly charming human comedy which remembers with great clarity and attention to detail, a time not so long ago when a group of men from one culture spent a night with members of another culture and found commonalities between them.
Lieutenant-colonel Tawfiq Zacharya (Sasson Gabai) is the hard-nosed, dour and serious conductor of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, which has traveled from Egypt to perform a special concert at the opening of the new Arab Cultural Center, only to wind up stranded in a similarly-named, small desert town somewhere in Israel. The band leader, along with a tall ladies’ man named Haled (Saleh Bakri), is invited to sleep at a diner owned by the dark, beautiful Dina (Ronit Elkabetz). The rest of the band are taken in at a small, nearby apartment occupied by Dina’s associate.
Throughout the night, time will pass, conversations will lead to careful observations and surprising discoveries of similarities between the Israelis and the Egyptians, and Dina and Tewfiq will find more in common than perhaps any of them. These two are slogging through middle age, with the old, widowed Tewfiq’s life starting to wind down, grounded by years of conformity to discipline and order, and Dina’s life just coasting by, never quite living up to any sort of expectations.
The landscape around them and writer-director Eran Kolirin’s easy-going pacing reflect the “seriousness” of the story; there is no action here, no big laughs, no grand dramatic payoffs, no great points to be made. The film never forces itself. What we get instead is a gently funny and surprisingly moving portrait of how two “enemies” (neither of whom would harm a fly) came together for one night and got along. There’s something beautiful and endearing about it. In its own quiet way, this is one of the year’s best films.
Note: The film was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards. It also won the FIPRESCI Prize (Un Certain Regard), Award of the Youth and Un Certain Regard – Jury Coup de Cour at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.