The Band’s Visit
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Many critics complained that Eran Kolirin’s “The Band’s Visit” was considered ineligible for the 2007 Academy Awards. It’s a film about Egyptians in Israel, but neither the Egyptians nor the Israelis speak the others’ native language, so the bulk of the film is in their common language of English. According to the rules, that’s not foreign language enough. Would it have won the Academy Award had it been eligible? Perhaps. It is very good little film.
An Egyptian police orchestra, led by Lt. Tawfiq Zacharaya (Sasson Gabi) is hazardously traveling through Israel on the way to a concert. They get lost, and find themselves in a small city pretty much in the middle of nowhere. There is no bus leaving town until the next day, so the orchestra must rely on the kindness of the locals to find a place to stay for the night. The story unfolds in a cautious and simple way. Tawfiq has a strong connection to the beautiful restaurant owner Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), and they go out on a date of sorts. The orchestra’s charming lothario (Saleh Bakri) hits the night clubs in the hope of charming young ladies, but has a decidedly different journey. A trio of the police find themselves largely unwelcome at a birthday dinner.
There are no fights. There are no huge conflicts. There are just the truly awkward situations of having to put someone out, and balancing your dignity on having to ask.
The ages-long conflict between Israel and Egypt simmers underneath the film’s action, but “The Band’s Visit” is certainly not a film about saccharine messages of tolerance (the-other-guys-are-people-too-yadda-yadda-yadda). It manages to, instead, be about real humanity, about people finding an outlet for their sadness in the unexpected connections of other. It’s subdued. It’s almost silent.
The film’s final scenes (where Dina and Tawfiq’s brief friendly relationship seems in question) may anger some people, but actually makes perfect sense. Why did Dina do that? Why didn’t Tawfiq? Well, that’s not really the way the film was pointing. It would go against the film’s direction and the characters’ natures for it to have worked out any differently. It is wise in allowing itself to do what it did.
(Sorry to be so vague, but I don’t want to give anything away)
It is a very sweet film that incorporates quietly sad moments, sweet exhilaration, and humanity. I liked it.