The Band’s Visit (Bikur Ha-Tizmoret, Israel-France-US, 2007)

A fisherman's tale

A fisherman's tale

This is a beautifully observed ‘culture clash’ comedy, and when those cultures are Arabic and Israeli the resonances are large. Politics is largely absent but the Middle East conflict is so profound that it remains a loud subtext throughout. The film never becomes sentimental as the Egyptian band, marooned in Nowheresville, Israel, are befriended – more or less – by the locals, as it never loses sight of the deep loneliness experienced by many of the characters. Tears, therefore, spring from both happiness, at the humanist approach of the film, and sadness,

The direction is terrific as it allows space for the performers, particulary Sasson Gabai‘s often impassive demeanour, and offers some wonderful shots of the concrete hewn spaces in which the action takes place. The scene where the likeable rake, Halid, coaches his inexperienced ‘friend’ in the art of seduction – all in one shot – is a comic classic.

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