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band's visit
Click for full sized poster

The Band's Visit

Starring Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, Saleh Bakri, Khalifa Natour, Shlomi Avraham
Written and Directed by Eran Kolirin

In English, subtitled, with some Arabic and Hebrew

IN SHORT: See It. [Rated PG-13 for brief strong language. 89 minutes]

It's been a whole lot of years since we've seen an English language film that used subtitles -- only seen it happen once, come to think about it -- but we rarely had to use 'em in our screening of The Band's Visit so don't let that stop you. Overall it is a good film that will be very comfortable at the local arthouse BUT within the film is one scene that is so very, very funny that we feel you should hunt this sucker down. We'll come back to that thought in a paragraph or two. . .

The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arrives in Israel to play at the opening of an Arab Cultural Center.  Dressed in full regalia and observing all military police protocol, the members of the orchestra are at a pivotal time in their careers. It’s not just the political nature of an Arab military police band playing traditional Arab music in Israel that makes this event so important; budget cuts and many reorganizations have threatened the continued existence of the Orchestra.  Faced with the heavy burden of this assignment, the stoic conductor Tewfiq (Sasson Gabai) is determined not to foul their excursion.
Despite all Tewfiqs efforts, it’s not long before problems arise. The band arrives at the airport with no one there to greet them. Stranded and unable able to contact their Israeli hosts or the Egyptian consulate for help, Tewfiq decides that the Orchestra will persevere with its assignment and orders, and designates Khaled, a sauve young ladies man (Saleh Bakri), to ask for directions. Khaled and the station agent struggle in English, Arabic and Hebrew to communicate, but despite their best efforts, the Orchestra is sent to the outskirts of a small forgotten Israeli town in the desert.

Not that long ago, Egypt and Israel were deadly enemies, which is why this Israeli production is so remarkable, and worth a look. The basic story is about an Egyptian police band that comes to play in Israel and, confused by the language, mispronounces their destination and winds up in the wrong place.

Think of it in American terms: a foreigner comes to "Brooklyn" and pronounces it with a "long y" -- he ends up in Brookline, Massachusettes. Here, the band is booked to play in Peta Tikva (forgive us if we've misspelled, we're just a dumb American) and, because of pronounciation, winds up in Bet Hatikvah. Say 'em fast and it'll make better sense.

The band which winds up in Bet Hatikvah is led by Tewfiq (Sasson Gabai), an elderly, widowed police officer.  Dina (Ronit Elkabetz) runs a small restaurant, Haled (Saleh Bakri) is the band's stud, expressly told to keep his hands off the locals (which he doesn't). . Papi (Shlomi Avraham) is the virgin who is introduced to the wonderful world of women by the studly Haled. The band's second in command Simon (Khalifa Natour) has dinner with two compatriots and three Israelis -- the war(s) never come up in conversation but a common ground is found in the music.

A scene of Haled "teaching" Papi how to make a pass is worth the price of a ticket.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Band's Visit, he would have paid . . .


Great for those inclined to the art house

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.