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The Band’s Visit

Screenwriter: Eran Kolirin

Distrib/release date: Sony Pictures Classics/Feb. 8, 2008

Storyline: An Egyptian police band finds itself stranded in a dead-end Israeli town, where locals house the musicians for the night and communicate in broken English.

About the script: Kolirin’s gentle, poignant and wry film deals with Jewish-Arab relations on the most human scale, and he uses a dry wit and music as a bridge between the characters. There’s a pivotal scene in which restaurateur Dina talks about her happy memories of watching Arab movies on Israeli TV. “It has personal meaning to me, part of my nostalgia, my longing,” says Kolirin. “This was something that was lost from my life, my childhood — not only the movies that were lost, a kind of another atmosphere that existed (was) lost.”

Biggest challenge: “It was all a kind of tightrope act. On one hand, it’s like a fable; on the other hand there’s political understatement. It’s a totally unrealistic situation and on the other hand a very realistic approach to the characters,” says Kolirin. “It was difficult to harmonize the subtle, deadpan humor, the dry approach, with the drama, the compete opposite scale of emotion.”

Breakthrough idea: Kolirin struggled with the scale of the film. But the arc of Egyptian Simon, who’s nurturing an unfinished concerto, provided Kolirin with the idea to just make the film his way: As Simon gazes at a sleeping child, Itzic, his host for the night, says, “You know, your concerto doesn’t have to go to extreme heights.” Says Kolirin: “That was basically me telling me that when I was working on the screenplay, thinking it was too small, not big enough for cinema, fuck it, I don’t care. Simon became kind of a mirror of the process of writing the script.”

Choice line: “Or maybe this your concerto end? I mean no big end … no trumpets and … violins and maybe this is the finish, just like that, suddenly not happy not sad … a small room. A bed. A child sleeps. A lamp. And tons of loneliness.”

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