The Band's Visit

Director: Eran Kolirin
Year: 2007
Rating: 8.5
Country: Israel

This small very simple film has received loads of praise and prizes at various film festivals and every bit of it is deserved. It begins in a state of sublime droll comedy and evolves from there to something that pierces the soul and uplifts it at the same time. Eight members of the Egyptian Alexandria Police Orchestra land in Israel for a concert they are to give, but no one has bothered to meet them at the airport. They are led by the rigid, somber and stuffy Tawfiq (Sasson Gabal in as marvelous a performance as I’ve seen in years) who adamantly refuses to ask the embassy for help. Instead they decide to get to the town on their own but after Saleh the band’s lothario sings Chet Baker’s version of “My Funny Valentine” to the female clerk, he gets the wrong information and they end up on the roadside of a desolate isolated settlement all adorned in their best dress uniforms with only Egyptian money in their pockets. They are taken in by Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), the earthy sensual proprietress of a small restaurant for the night and in the ensuing hours their sad lonely lives quietly leak out through conversation, silences, remembrances and music in a pool of common humanity. This is one of my favorite films of the year.

Written in Nov 2007