First Israeli pic to be shown since peace deal

LONDON — “The Band’s Visit” has become the first Israeli film to be screened in Egypt since the two countries signed a peace deal nearly 30 years ago.

Helmer Eran Kolirin’s tale of an Egyptian band that gets lost while traveling in Israel on the way to performing at a cultural center debuted at last year’s Cannes Film Festival to great acclaim. Pic had gone unseen in the Arab world since then due to the cultural boycott that exists in many Arab countries against Israel.

Kolirin, who had tried without success to have the film submitted to last year’s Cairo Film Fest, attended the intimate screening, which was held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo for a group of invited Egyptian intellectuals and Israeli embassy staff.

Details of the screening had been kept private prior to its unspooling to avoid the potential of protests against it.

Pic was being considered for selection at Abu Dhabi’s inaugural Middle East Film Festival last year before Egypt’s Actors Union threatened to boycott the fest if it was selected. Although Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979, a large portion of Egyptian society and its cultural community are against what they describe as “normalization” with Israel.

“The most important thing for us with the release of this film is that Arab audiences get to watch it and judge it with their own eyes,” “Band’s Visit” producer Ehud Bleiberg told Variety last year. “In the end, I don’t think people will be able to stop this film from being seen. We will not stop until we’ve done everything possible.'”

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