The Band's Visit

The Band's Visit


Reviewed by: Daniel Hooper

One of the first images on screen in The Band's Visit is that of a fully uniformed Egyptian police band in a line, waiting outside an Israeli airport whilst not much happens - it is a simple but comic image showing them as fish out of water, setting the tone for this slice-of-life story. The winner of the Cannes' Prize Un Certain Regard, Eran Kolirin’s film is a small scale story and all the better for it.

Opening with the premise of the band arriving in the wrong place at the wrong time due to a case of being lost in translation – they go to Bietha Tikva instead of the intended Petach Tikva – they find themselves stuck with no way of leaving until the next morning, the day of their concert at the Arab Cultural Centre.

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Fortunately for the band, they are accommodated by the locals Dina (Ronit Elkabetz) and Itzik (Rubi Moscovich), who split them into two groups. The older uptight band conductor Tawfiq (Sasson Gabai) and young but irresponsible Haled (Saleh Bakri) stay with Dina, while the remainder, led by the melancholy want-to-be conductor Simon (Khalifa Natour), stay with Itzik and his disgruntled family.

The simplicity at the heart of The Band's Visit is charming. Set over the course of a night, there is an organic development to the story, unravelling the characters slowly, so that we learn about them as the characters learn about each other. This is best illustrated by Dina and Tawfiq as they go out for the evening and we’re told about the sadness at their core, which connects them, without resorting to flashbacks or unconvincing expositional dialogue. Between Dina, Tawfiq and Haled lies the key group dynamic of the film, a love triangle of sorts and a conflict between the young and older band members about authority and for the affections of Dina.

The Band's Visit wrings humour out of both the characters and their situation, while maintaining a bittersweet tone. Simon’s group having to stay with Itzik’s family is very funny, but it is at the cost of a deeply inharmonious family. Haled goes to town with a shy local boy who can’t help but insult his date, until he gets ladies-man Haled’s advice.

Though amusing, The Band's Visit isn’t slapstick comedy, nor is it a social realist piece; it is a little event with a big hearts and laughs. The film opens with a caption stating: "Not many remember this... It wasn't that important" but after watching this you’re unlikely to forget it.

Reviewed on: 29 Feb 2008
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The Band's Visit packshot
The misadventures of an Egyptian police band, who get lost in Israel.

Director: Eran Kolirin

Writer: Eran Kolirin

Starring: Shlomi Avraham, Saleh Bakri, Ronit Elkabetz, Sasson Gabai, Uri Gavriel, Imad Jabarin, Ahuva Keren, François Khell, Hisham Khoury, Tarak Kopty, Rinat Matatov

Year: 2007

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: Israel, France, US


London 2007

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