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Reckoning

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BAND'S VISIT, THE

SYNOPSIS:
The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arrives in Israel from Egypt for a cultural event, only to find there is no delegation to meet them, nor any arrangements to get to their destination of Petah Tiqva. When they find their own ride, they arrive instead at the remote town of Beit Hatikva. Stuck there until the next morning's bus, the band, lead by the repressed Tawfiq Zacharya (Sasson Gabai), gets help from the worldly café owner, Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), who offers to put them up for the night, with help from Simon (Khalifa Natour). The night passes quietly enough, but with some profound exchanges and secrets confessed.

Review by Louise Keller:
There are no major plot points or dramatic arcs in The Band's Visit, but through its awkward pauses, there's plenty of nuance and wry humour. The pauses come from miscommunication between the eight members of the Alexandria Police Band and the characters they meet on their official visit to Israel. Writer director Eran Kolirin delights in revealing the minutiae and the importance of the miniscule as the musicians out of their element show all the signs of insecurity in their new environment. For maximum enjoyment, this is a film that requires and deserves patience. Its understated humour and melancholy seem to battle it out on a see-saw of the unexpected that sways, leans and creaks every which way.

The film begins with the arrival of eight men wearing spick and span powder blue uniforms, complete with gold epaulettes, caps and belts. They are conspicuous by their formality and by the very fact that they do not belong. Stranded with no bus or hotel, the members of the band become subject to the hospitality of Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), the sassy, local restaurant owner who is aching for change. Quickly, the key members are singled out. Sasson Gabai gives a seasoned performance as Tawfig Zacharaya, the strict, formidable and traditional band leader whose heart becomes exposed by the forthright Dina. She coaxes him to reveal himself and when he says 'It's good to talk about things,' we get the feeling that he never talks about anything. Until now. Saleh Bakri's Khaled is appealing as the ladies' man with the musical opening line. The situations become more and more incongruous. The scene when Khaled coaches the inexperienced Papi (Shlomi Avraham) in the art of seduction, is one of the funniest, as Khaled, Papi and the girl Papi covets sit side by side on the bench.

Language may be one of the barriers to overcome, but it is the clumsiness and inability of the band members to communicate on any level that becomes the common point. The resolutions are outwardly simple but inwardly complex. There's the local boy who stands each night by the telephone waiting for his girlfriend to ring, and the clarinet player who finds the answer to his unfinished symphony in a small room where a child sleeps that is filled with 'tons of loneliness.' The Band's Visit is a charming film that embraces character. It also has a few things to say about Israeli/Arab relationships but for the most part, the journey is one of the spirit.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A film of quiet intensity, hard edged charm and surprising revelations, The Band's Visit straddles comedy and drama with ease as it peers into the hearts and minds of a random group of people thrown together by fate. The undercurrents of cultural difference are superbly streamlined in a screenplay that finds the humanity in all its characters, letting them guide the story into credible riffs on the human condition.

The prolific Israeli actor Sasson Gabai is all stillness and reserve, his fascinating face a riveting landscape of emotions held in check but heartfelt. Ronit Elkabetz, something of an Israeli screen icon, delivers a fascinating portrait of Dina, a woman stuck in a remote café but never disconnected from life. Sales Bakri is entertaining as the youngster of the band who happily forgets self discipline. Key support from Shlomi Avraham as young Papi, the mop headed, virginal youth, whose journey is both touching and comical.

This debut from Eran Kolirin was quickly selected for Un Certain Regard at Cannes (2007) and went on to win 32 awards. It is not a film one talks about in terms of what happens, but in how observant it is and how it gets under our defences in a snapshot of some of human nature's benign aspects. He is not afraid of still spaces and short silences, working in a rhythm that make Hollywood films seem relentlessly fast. The comedy is soft, the pathos understated and the satisfaction surprisingly full bodied.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

BAND'S VISIT, THE (M)
(Israel/France/US, 2007)

Bikur Ha-Tizmoret

CAST: Sasson Gabai, Saleh Bakri, Ronit Elkabetz, Khalifa Natour, Shlomi Avraham

PRODUCER: Ehud Bleiberg, Koby Gal-Raday, Guy Jacoel, Eilon Rachkowski,Yossi Uzrad

DIRECTOR: Eran Kolirin

SCRIPT: Eran Kolirin

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Doron Ashkenazi

EDITOR: Arik Leibovitch

MUSIC: Habib Shadah

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Eitan Levi

RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 26, 2008







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