The Band’s Visit

Warm take on cross-cultural relations proves that light touch is sometimes needed to address serious topics.

With: Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, Saleh Bakri, Khalifa Natour, Imad Jabarin, Tarak Kopty, Hisham Khoury, Francois Kheel, Eyad Sheety, Shlomi Avraham, Rubi Moscovich, Hila Surjon Fischer, Uri Gabriel, Ahouva Keren. (Arabic, English, Israeli dialogue)

An Egyptian band gets stranded in a nowhere Israeli desert town in “The Band’s Visit,” a warm and delightful take on cross-cultural relations that proves that sometimes a light touch is just what’s needed to address serious topics. Novice helmer Eran Kolirin has a playful eye for compositions and a fine touch with thespers, occasionally playing on the borders of cute but reining in before going to the wrong side of sentiment. An audience charmer that’s sure to sweep Israel — and Egypt too if allowed to open — offshore arms will be more than welcoming.

When their hosts fail to turn up at the airport, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Band take a bus to the town they’re supposed to be playing. Not only isn’t it much of a place, it’s also not their place, but the last bus has gone and they don’t know where they’re supposed to go. To quell grumblings already afoot among members, conductor Tawfiq (Sasson Gabai) hesitantly accepts a suggestion from cafe manager Dina (Ronit Elkabetz) to stay the night.

Tawfiq and handsome ladies’ man Khaled (Saleh Bakri) bunk together at Dina’s. She’s not the kind of woman Tawfiq is used to: wry, with an outward, playful self-confidence and undisguised sexuality. The awkward, melancholy band leader reluctantly accepts Dina’s invitation to dinner, where her needy flirtation and his gentlemanly sadness form a bridge of understanding.

Meanwhile, Khaled tags on to the socially awkward Papi (Shlomi Avraham) for a night at a roller disco, culminating in a hilarious lesson on how to treat women. Other band members, headed by second-in-command Simon (Khalifa Natour), stay with Itzik (Rubi Moscovich), leading to tensions with his family and revelations about fulfillment. Balanced by a very funny rendition around the dinner table of “Summertime,” these scenes have something profound to say, but never feel heavy-handed.

By pic’s end it’s not just that the Israelis and Egyptians have learned something about each other, they’ve learned something about themselves. Mastering these lessons without becoming artificially rosy-eyed would defeat a lesser talent, but both in script and direction Kolirin proves he’s more than up to the task. His picaresque humor and witty style are a joy to behold, as is his respect for all quirks of character.

Thesping is terrific, with everyone in perfect tune. Acting powerhouse Elkabetz displays a wonderful comic charm, sardonic yet warm and ultimately vulnerable — her head keeps moving slightly in a swagger that’s more protective armor than artifice. She and Gabai play perfectly together, his shy eyes almost afraid of her challenging, affectionate gaze. Newcomer Bakri, too, has a great flare for timing and exudes buckets of uncomplicated charm.

Visuals are a particular pleasure: Kolirin has a witty sense of composition, unexpectedly passing people in and out of the frame to maximum, but not overdone, humorous effect. The band’s light blue uniforms, contrasted against the desert, are ideal visual reminders that they’re out of place, and yet as pic makes clear, there’s every reason in the world for them to be there. Music, that ideal bringer-together of cultures, beautifully contributes to the theme.

Popular on Variety

The Band's Visit


Production: A July August Prods. (Israel)/Bleiberg Entertainment (USA)/Sophie Dulac Prods. (France) production. (International sales: Bleiberg Entertainment, Beverly Hills.) Produced by Eilon Ratzkovsky, Ehud Bleiberg, Yossi Uzrad, Koby Gal-Raday, Guy Jacoel. Co-producers, Sophie Dulac, Michel Zana. Directed, written by Eran Kolirin.

Crew: Camera (color), Shai Goldman; editor, Arik Lahav Leibovitz; music, Habib Shehadeh Hanna; production designer, Eitan Levi; costume designer, Doron Ashkenazi; sound (Dolby Digital), Itai Eloav; sound design, Gil Toren; line producer, Tami Kushnir; casting, Orit Azoulay. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 19, 2007. Running time: 86 MIN.

With: With: Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, Saleh Bakri, Khalifa Natour, Imad Jabarin, Tarak Kopty, Hisham Khoury, Francois Kheel, Eyad Sheety, Shlomi Avraham, Rubi Moscovich, Hila Surjon Fischer, Uri Gabriel, Ahouva Keren. (Arabic, English, Israeli dialogue)

More Film

  • Florenc Papas on Road Movies, Ancient

    ‘Open Door’ Helmer on Road Movies, Ancient Traditions, Social Pretensions

    Albanian director Florenc Papas, an alumnus of the Sarajevo Talents program, is in competition at the Sarajevo Film Festival with his feature film debut, “Open Door.” The road movie follows two sisters, Rudina and the pregnant and unmarried Elma, who embarks on a journey to visit their strict and traditional father in the remote mountain [...]

  • Dronningen/Queen of HeartsDirected by MAY EL-TOUKHYNordisk

    'Queen of Hearts,' 'White, White Day' Among Nordic Council Film Prize Contenders

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  Iceland’s “A White, White Day,” Denmark’s “Queen of Hearts” and Norway’s “Blind Spot” are among the five films that will compete for this year’s Nordic Council Film Prize, a prestigious film award aimed at promoting Nordic co-operation and environmental initiatives. Sweden’s “Reconstructing Utøya” and Finland’s “Aurora” help round out the list, which [...]

  • Actor Javier Bardem looking at chinstrap

    Javier Bardem on Toronto-Bound ‘Sanctuary,’ See Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID  — Just selected as a Special Event at September’s Toronto Film Festival, Alvaro Longoria’s “Sanctuary.” starring and produced by Javier Bardem, may need a new ending. On Aug. 19, Bardem, along with Greenpeace, addressed delegates at the United Nations in New York to urge governments to agree to a strong Global Ocean Treaty. Creating [...]

  • Bosnia's Canton Sarajevo to Launch Film

    Bosnia's Canton Sarajevo to Launch Film and TV Rebate Incentive

    Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Canton of Sarajevo is introducing a new €1 million ($1.1 million) film funding initiative next year aimed at promoting domestic and international film and television production in the region. The incentive is the first of its kind in the country. Government representatives of Sarajevo Canton, including Prime Minister Edin Forto and culture [...]

  • Antlers Trailer

    Guillermo Del Toro's 'Antlers' Starring Keri Russell Drops Chilling First Trailer

    Events take a dark turn for a small town school teacher, played by “The Americans'” Keri Russell, in the first teaser trailer for horror movie “Antlers,” produced by Guillermo del Toro. The footage, unveiled Tuesday, centers on a young boy (Jeremy T. Thomas) reading from a frightening short story he’s written as Russell listens. The [...]

  • Why Hollywood Should Tone Down Violence

    Why It's Time for Hollywood to Reconsider the Amount of Violence on Screen (Column)

    To put it mildly, we live in scary, intolerant, violent times. Since a lone gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, and killed 20 children, six adults and himself, there have been at least 2,187 mass shootings across America, resulting in the deaths of some 2,461 people and wounding more than [...]

  • James Bond Spectre

    James Bond Movie Title Revealed

    The latest James Bond adventure finally has a title. The 25th entry in the action spy series will be named “No Time to Die.” In the upcoming movie, Bond (Daniel Craig) has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content