Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Band's Visit

Bikur Ha-Tizmoret
2007 (Israel) - Dir: Eran Kolirin 1 hour 27 minutes
Shown at the FeckenOdeon on 14th March, 2014
When you travel to an unfamiliar foreign country you’re bound to feel nervous. If you’re Egyptian and you travel to Israel you’re understandably going to be even more nervous. The two countries haven’t always seen things the same way and the slightest mistake could be misunderstood and build into an international incident. Under such circumstances you’d be extra careful... probably. But anyone can make a mistake - even the grandly titled and immaculately costumed Egyptian Police Ceremonial Band. Even Ceremonial bandsmen are human... and fallible. When you’ve got yourself lost in the middle of nowhere and the last bus has gone there’s nothing for it but to get on with the people you’ve been taught to dislike. The revelation that they’re like you - ordinary, bored, wanting company... love, peace... comes as a welcome shock. It’s a bit like discovering that even Parisians have a sense of humour (oh yes they do!) or that Milton Keynes has a nice pub. This likeable film doesn’t preach about how we should all get on together and break down the walls that divide us - it acknowledges that ordinary folk like us can do nothing about the entrenched attitudes of politicians and zealots - so we might as well just get on with people in general. 
First-time writer and director Eran Kolirin, whose film was inspired by a real-life incident of a lost Egyptian police orchestra in Israel, spent years developing the script. He eventually drew on talent from both sides of the Arab-Israeli world to make a film that drives its message home through the very fact that it was possible to make it.

The Band's Visit won seven Ophir Prizes from the Israeli Film Academy, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and acting awards for stars Ronit Elkabetz (her third Award of the Israeli Film Academy), Sasson Gabai (his first win after three nominations) and Saleh Bakri, plus awards from festivals all over the world, including three from Cannes, the most prestigious festival in the world, including the FIPRESCI prize. It was, however, disqualified as Israel's entry for Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award (Oscar) nominee because over 50% of the dialogue was in English and denied a nomination for the very astute point that the film makes about communication in the modern world. If you don’t speak Egyptian you speak English - if you don’t speak Israeli you speak English! Time to revise the categories?! Even without the nomination, The Band's Visit was one of the most well reviewed films and financially successful foreign imports to the USA in 2008. Now impressario Harold Prince has decided to present The Band’s Visit as a stage musical. It will open in Tokyo later this year before going on to Broadway.

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