Band's Visit, The (Israel/France; 85 min.)

directed by: Eran Kolirin
starring: Ronit Elkabetz, Saleh Bakri, Uri Gavriel, Sasson Gabai, Imad Jabarin, Rubi Moskovitz, Khalifa Natour
Bikur Ha-Tizmoret

Bruce says: "THE BAND’S VISIT is a gentle little film. A small Egyptian police band is invited to Israel to perform. The band arrives a day early and follows signs to a bus stop where they board a bus to a town with a name similar to the town of their destination. When they arrive at a small village they discover they are in the wrong place but there are no more buses back to where they need to be until the following morning. The story focuses on three of the band members: Tawfig (Sasson Gabai), the band’s leader and conductor who is a widower; Khaled (Saleh Bakri), the handsome trumpet-playing Romeo who has fantasies of being an Egyptian Chet Baker; and Simon (Khalifa Natour) who composes and wants to conduct his own work.

"The bus stop is near a small café run by Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), a divorcee who has seen better days but still has some spark. The band goes to the café and meets Dina and her assistant Papi both of whom are very helpful when the band’s problems are revealed. It is decided that Tawfig and Khaled will both stay a Dina’s house for the night, Simon will stay with Iztik (Rubi Moskovitz); and the rest of the band will stay nearby.

"Dina is an overtly sexual being and Khaled immediately makes his moves, but it is Tawfig that Dina connects with emotionally. When Khaled realizes he is not going to make an easy score, Papi (Shlomi Avraham) takes him to a roller rink on a double date. Dina and Tawfig spend the evening comparing notes and discovering similarities. Simon ends up in the middle of a nasty family argument at Iztik’s home; Khaled returns to Dina’s, having struck out twice in one evening. Deadpan humor abounds as the films switches from one scene to another.

"The night proves a learning experience for two groups of people who, if their governments had their way, would not be fraternizing with one another. Nothing much happens other than each of the characters quietly shifting his or her point of view on one thing or another. Just to manage expectations Ronit Elkabetz, so sensational in OR (MYTREASURE), does not have such a meaty role here. She performs admirably as do the other cast members. This is a good ensemble piece. 4 cats

"THE BAND'S VISIT screened at the Toronto International Film Festival"