Here is a gem of a film. I saw ‘The Band’s Visit’ in 2008 and loved it. It is a gentle story of an Egyptian police force band on a visit to Israel to play at an Arab arts centre. Unfortunately, the band go to the wrong town and are then stranded. This town is in the Negev desert. There are no buses out until the next day and there are no hotels. Stranded, they eat at a local restaurant and Dina, the owner, invites the members to stay with her, with her friends and in the restaurant.
Through the night, we learn more about the eight band members as well as the people who take them in. The town is a place where nothing much happens and the arrival of the band at least adds some interest to a dull existence. Yet, the air is heavy with the sense that these two groups have little in common. Israelis and Egyptians are often guarded in their dealing with each other. Bit by bit, characters reveal their stories. Many have faced disappointments and have settled for lives that have fallen short of their dreams. The fact that this is true for characters from both sides of the divide becomes clear to them all.
Scenes between Dina, played by Ronit Elkabetz, and Tewfiq the band leader, played by Sasson Gabai, are the most affecting of all. When people see each other as people rather than as representatives of a community connections can be made. In one evening, barriers come down between two groups who should view each other with suspicion.
In the morning, the band members depart.
‘The Band’s Visit’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?