Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, ...

The Band's Visit

The setting of The Band’s Visit is a charmless Israeli desert town realistically assessed by a local café operator as offering ”no Arab culture, no Israeli culture, no culture at all.” Yet the breeze in the air smells distinctly Scandinavian, so droll is the observational wit and compositional eye of writer-director Eran Kolirin in his thoughtful charmer. His musical troupe is an Egyptian police band, booked for a gig at an Arab cultural center, who arrive by bus at the wrong Israeli town. Bored by the daily nothingness around her, the café lady, Dina (Ronit Elkabetz, the sexy-tough star of Late Marriage), offers overnight lodging to the stranded musicians — some at her place, others with none-too-eager neighbors. Dina would surely appreciate the irony that the movie — a superb chamber piece in Hebrew, Arabic, and halting English about communication — is another outstanding specimen of world cinema disqualified for Best Foreign Language Oscar consideration. (Cockeyed Academy rabbis and imams calculated that more than half the dialogue is in English — an Academy Tower of Babel taboo.)

Never mind. The night is long, the town is quiet, the band leader (marvelous Sasson Gabai) is prim, and Arab-Israeli distrust isn’t erased overnight. But something marvelous happens as the filmmaker, in his first feature, expertly metes out small scenes of communication between people taught, for generations, to be wary of one another: This Band swings with the rhythms of hope. A-

The Band's Visit
  • Movie
  • 87 minutes