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On an ordinary day, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arrives in Israel from Egypt for a cultural event, only find there is no delegation to meet them, nor any arrangements to get to their destination of Petah Tiqva. When they find their own ride, they arrive instead at the remote town of Beit Hatikva. Stuck there until the next morning's bus, the band, lead by the repressed Tawfiq Zacharaya, gets help from the worldly lunch owner, Dina, who offers to put them up for the night. As the band settles in as best it can, each of the members attempts to get along with the natives in their own way. What follows is a special night of quiet happenings and confessions as the band makes its own impact on the town and the town on them. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
The movie was selected to be Israel's Official Submission to the Best Foreign Language Film Category of The 80th Annual Academy Awards (2008), but it was disqualified by AMPAS because more than 50% of the film's dialogue was found to be in English, as opposed to Arabic and Hebrew. After an unsuccessful appeal, Israel sent Beaufort (2007) instead. See more »
When speaking in Arabic, Tawfiq pronounces some words with the Egyptian Arabic pronunciation, and some words with the Palestinian Arabic pronunciation. Being an Egyptian, he should talk in Egyptian Arabic dialect all the time. See more »
In an ocean of predictable movies, "The Band's Visit" is an island of bliss. When you see the advertising about the story of an Egyptian police band getting lost in Israel, you're likely to roll the film instantly in your mind - conflict, hatred, perhaps some awkward humor, and a forced bit or two of vague optimism about the future.
Forget all that, it's some other movie. This one is free and clear of anything set, routine, obvious, predictable. "The Band's Visit" is about people - mostly awkward, all real, well- and ill-behaved in turn
and not about agenda, ideology, politics. It's an unsentimental
"people movie" (remember when Hollywood used to churn those out?), enormously likable, a treasurehouse of humanism.
"Visit" is also a film you have to work with. It's not dumped on the audience in its fullness by its writer and (first-time) director, Eran Kolirin. Action is slow or nonexistent, dialogue is halting, silences are rampant. And yet it all works so well: even if you have never heard Egyptian music, when the band finally plays (as the end-credits roll), you're guaranteed to groove on it.
Kolirin is a writer and director of great economy. The characters of and relationships between the eight band members - in their powder blue, Sgt. Pepper-wannabe, uniforms are revealed through a word here, an expression there, and pretty soon, you really know them... except that later you realize you didn't.
The head of the band, Tewfig, is an officious, prissy, downcast, silent figure, and yet as the camera stays on him a great deal of the time, slowly you are getting used to him, and when he finally puts together a couple of full sentences, you may feel acceptance and even appreciation.
It is at this point, far into the movie, that you understand why Dina is pursuing him. Dina is the attractive - if blowsy - owner of a small cafe in the Israeli desert town where the band is stranded. There is much, much more to "Visit," but just watching the Tewfig-Dina story, and reveling in the performances of the two actors, is well worth the price of admission.
The band leader is Sasson Gabal, and I must admit being incredulous finding out after seeing the movie that he is a famous Israeli actor. Not only does he appear authentically Egyptian, but when starts singing an Arabic song - oy! Dina is Ronit Elkabetz, an actor so fine that you'd never suspect her of being one; what you see on the screen is the character, totally believable.
"Visit" is a rare film, one that keeps running in your mind long after the band strikes up.
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