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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 »
The band, an group of eight Egyptians looking slightly stilted and uncomfortable but always professional, are dropped off at the Israeli airport, but there is no bus to drive them. They eventually get one, but it drops them off in the middle of nowhere. They walk to a local restaurant/dive that's about as empty as the rest of the small town - it's the wrong town, of course, as one letter was off in the name of the town of the band-mates inquired about. So it's time to stay overnight in this sleepy little desert town before things get straightened out to their destination.
With that simple premise, Eran Kolirin creates an atmosphere that seems like the awkward, piercingly funny but "low-key" (in other words not overly dramatic) characters in a Jarmusch film, and despite the 'small' nature of the story, that there isn't very much to go in its 80 minute running time, a lot can be explored through interaction. This is probably not a 'great' film, but it is a great example for those skeptical that an Israeli film has to have some political context or subtext or whatever. The only scene that has the hint of unease between Israel and Arab is an already warm, strange scene at a dinner table where an Israeli man recollects singing "Summertime" as everyone at the table joins in. There are looks exchanged here and there, but nothing to suggest unrest of the expected sort. This story could take place in just about anywhere.
By aiming things towards the little details of people relating on terms of friendly interaction, of the light dances of affection like between the boy who "hears the sea" and the "gloomy girl" at the skating rink (probably the single funniest scene without a word spoken, all movement), the first-time director creates a little play on people who live and/or work in a marginalized part of the world. That doesn't mean they're poor or ignorant, far from it. But it's a sweet view into people we otherwise wouldn't know much about (after all, who makes light, wise comedies on the misadventures of a police band from Egypt?) The performances are endearing, the music has the ring of not taking much too seriously, and melodrama is kept at a low (if not, in the underlying sense, melancholy). Only a few scenes (like the running story strand of the officer and the other guy waiting at the pay phone) fall sort of flat based on the tone already sent.
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