This warm, heartfelt movie about love, loneliness and cultural differences stars the late Israeli actress Ronit Elkabetz in one of her most popular roles. It follows the members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, led by the repressed Tawfiq, who after taking the wrong bus on their way to a cultural event, wind up on the doorstep of Dina, a free-spirited cafe owner in a remote Israel village. After informing them they will be stuck there until the next morning, Dina offers to put them up for the night, with help from other villagers.
The Band’s Visit is Israeli writer, director Eran Kolirin’s bewitching story of an Egyptian Police Orchestra’s fateful visit to Israel.
Upon arrival, the band is left stranded at the airport. As they try to make their own way to their concert destination they get terribly lost and end up in a small, desolate Israeli town in the middle of nowhere. They meet the beguiling café owner Dina, who encourages them to stay overnight and catch their bus in the morning.
Kolirin’s screenplay doesn’t focus on the Arab Israeli conflict, instead all these misplaced souls from various religious and cultural backgrounds meet on an emotional level. And the result is funny and moving with a tone and look that is unique and charming.
Kolirin often lets the landscape speak for itself. Employing simple but effective wide shots to display how pathetically out of place the smart, pressed, powder blue uniforms of the Egyptian band are.
The performances are all so refined and perfect it is hard to single them out. However, the three leads are brilliant.
Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz and Saleh Bakri each bring a delicate mix of desperate vulnerability and dignity to their roles that wonderfully highlights Kolirin’s gentle, subtle direction.
The Band’s Visit is one of those special films that can alter perceptions about people, where they live and how they really interact, without having to be too overt or loud.
This intriguing gentle film is so potent in its message about what is important, that it leaves you feeling there might be hope for peace after all: 4 stars.