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Monday, 28 July 2008

The Band's Visit

‘Once, not long ago, a small Egyptian police band arrived in Israel. Not many people remember it – it wasn’t that important.’ So goes the unassuming blurb for this utterly charming and absolutely memorable little Israeli film, the debut feature for director Eran Kolirin. The story opens as the musicians – in fetchingly outdated powder-blue uniforms – arrive at the Tel Aviv airport. They need to catch a bus to a nearby town to play music at the opening of an Arab Cultural Centre. Due to various language barriers and scheduling mistakes, the band ends up in a desolate Israeli town, where there’s no cultural centre – and seemingly no culture at all, as the sexy café owner Dina (Ronit Elkabetz) laughingly tells them.

The band must spend the night waiting for the next bus, and they’re billeted out to various townsfolk. It’s the small moments of humourous connection and subtle miscommunication that make this film a treasure. Band conductor Tewfiq (Sasson Gabai) conveys a universe of sorrow in his solemn face, but there’s also joy. It’s clear that for him, music, however humble, is the answer and the consolation for everything.

Rochelle Siemienowicz