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Foreign Film - Israel - The Band's Visit

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The Band's Visit / Bikur Ha-Tizmoret
Ahura Keven, Ronit Elkabetz, Sasson Gabai
Written / Directed by Elan Kolirin
Arabic / Hebrew / English
English subtitles
Israel 2008
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 2008
87 minutes

The DVD previews for The Band's Visit suggested this was a broad fish out of water comedy. This is a sad yet subtly comic movie about loneliness and there is nothing quite like it. The Band's Visit, winner of some 35 film awards, was scheduled to be Israel's Foreign Film entry at the 80th Academy Award but because Israelis and Arabs communicate in English (and music) in this film it was disqualified.

The 8-member Alexandria Police Ceremonial Orchestra goes to Israel to help open the Israeli/Arab cultural center in Pet Hatikva. They somehow end up in Bet Hatikva, a small kibbutz at the end of nowhere. The orchestra is only carrying their instruments, wearing their band uniforms, and have little money for food and lodging. Café owner Dina (Ronit Elkabetz) and a couple of the villagers offer the band a place to stay.

The Egyptians and Israelis are quite uncomfortable with each other but they slowly warm up to each other, a bit. One of the reasons The Band's Visit is such an interesting movie is it doesn't go Hollywood and these people all fall in love with each other and end up touring the world in a common orchestra. Instead, individuals in the orchestra get to know a couple of the Israeli villagers, discover they have a few things in common like Summertime and Chet Baker.

They also discover they all share a great loneliness. Dina and Tewfiq are both older and single, the young awkward Israeli boy is as lonely as young Egyptian heartthrob Haled, and Bet Hatikva is a place where not much happens and the accidental arrival of the Alexandria Police Ceremonial Orchestra is not going to change that.

The Band's Visit is a slow yet very interesting movie about the human condition and soul.

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