Saturday, March 1, 2008

Film Review: The Band's Visit

Eric Green

When US moviegoers familiar with Jim Jarmusch�s films such as "Mystery Train" and "Strangers Than Paradise" and, also, Percy Adlon's, "Bagdad Cafe" see "The Band's Visit," they will feel very much at home.

Making his directorial debut, Israeli director, Eran Kolirin created a truly remarkable film. The film is a barely 89 minutes long, but in that short period of time, a full story of very human characters and often universal situations takes place.

The film has a simple story line. An Alexandria, Egyptian police orchestra band is invited to a middle of nowhere, desert Israeli town to perform. They are opening an Arabic Cultural Center. Along the way, they get lost and end up spending a night in an even smaller Israeli desert down.

The lead actors are Sasson Gabai, identified in some on line searches as a Middle Eastern actor. He plays the band's director and singer, Tawfig. He received Actor of the Year Award from the European Film Academy for his performance.

The co-lead of the film is Ronit Elkabetz playing Dina, the proprietor of the local caf�. She is an actor, director and writer in Israeli cinema. She has a host of film credits. The scenes between Gabai and Elkabetz have an electric dramatic energy.

The other leader on band is member, Haled, played by Saleh Bakri. He is particularly interested in Chet Baker and asks the Israelis he comes into contact with if they know him. There is a little surprise in the film just who does knows Chet Baker and has every one of his records.

Rotten Tomatoes, the on line movie review site, gave the film an amazing 99% rating.

The film opens with a little statement that the events in this film took place a little while before the current period. The film like this is probably not possible given the current situation in the Middle East.


The film was rejected by the Oscars systems because it had too many English lines. It won the best film of the year by the Israeli Film Academy; and, it won three different Cannes Awards.

Don�t miss it.

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