The Band's Visit
The band in question is the Alexandria Ceremonial Police group, which has come to Israel to perform at the opening of an Arab cultural centre in Petach Tivka, north-east of Tel Aviv. Unfortunately for them there’s no one to greet them at the airport, and, having caught the wrong bus, the Egyptian musicians find themselves stranded in a remote town where, as one local drily observes, ‘There is no culture at all.’
Out of this scenario, Israeli writer-director Eran Kolirin has, in his debut feature, fashioned a beautifully acted melancholic comedy, which should appeal to fans of Jarmusch and Kaurismaki. From the outset – the opening titles read ‘Once, not long ago’ – there’s a fairytale quality to The Band’s Visit, Kolirin steering clear of politics with a capital P. Instead he observes with generosity and understatement the various Arab and Israeli characters interacting on a personal level over the course of a surprising evening.
There’s a playfulness to the film’s mise-en-scene, evident in the deliberate compositions and the way the immaculate powder-blue uniforms of the band members are set against the arid environment. Between the film’s droll humour and the music, whether in the form of a dinner table rendition of ‘Summertime’ or in the closing public recital of the band, The Band’s Visit may just have the power to transcend national boundaries.
Selected release from Fri 9 Nov.