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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Film shows rare reward in getting lost

“The Band’s Visit” was Israel’s Oscar nominee for
Best Foreign Picture, but it was sadly rejected by the Academy on the simple
grounds that much of its dialogue is in English. Nevermind that English is not
the first language of any of the actors, and furthermore that the entire
production was set and carried out in Israel. Still, despite being shunned by
the Academy on a technicality, the film has won 28 awards and garnered an
additional eight nominations, and for good reasons.

Written and directed by Eran Kolirin, “The Band’s
Visit” is, quite simply, wonderful. It tells the story of a small Egyptian
police band that arrives in Israel upon invitation to perform at the inaugural
ceremony of an Arab arts center, only to be forgotten at the airport.
Attempting to find their way in a foreign country with spotty knowledge of the
language, the band boards the wrong bus and disembarks at the wrong town — a
nearly forgotten place in the middle of the desert with no hotel.

Finding themselves stranded until the next bus pulls in the
following morning, the disenchanted troupe of misfits are taken in by a few
hesitant but complying locals who are an odd bunch themselves. What follows is
an evening filled with awkward situations caused by cultural tension and
diversity, and yet though at first straining to make pleasant conversation, the
characters slowly find that they have more in common than they could have


Offering a touching perspective on what can happen when
cultures collide, “The Band’s Visit” tells a simple story of
happenstance, but one which begets new understanding and even personal growth
to those affected.

As a whole the film is a comedy, but not in an obvious
slapstick way. Rather, the film’s humor is born out of the absolute social
awkwardness of nearly every character. A great example of this is in one of the
best scenes of the film, an utterly classic bit that takes place at a roller
rink. Here the band’s youngest member, the lanky playboy Haled (Saleh Bakri in
his first role), teaches a hopelessly timid Israeli how to comfort his sad
date. When just moments before the men had been uncomfortable in each other’s
company, now Haled was using the boy to demonstrate how to rub her knee and put
his arm around her.

The band itself is led by a hackneyed lieutenant-colonel
named Tawfiq (Sasson Gabai, “The Order”), who finds himself being
taken around the town by their spirited host Dina (Ronit Elkabetz). Tawfiq’s
aged demeanor is smartly complemented by Dina’s independence and cosmopolitan
acceptance of their culture, and perhaps unsurprisingly the greatest connecting
factor between these people suddenly thrown together is music. As a medium
which transcends cultures, music is a prevalent theme in the film that ushers
in a variety of moments of humor, tranquility and inspiration.

Considering that the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty was only
signed in 1979, the general hospitality shown in “The Band’s Visit”
is a testament to breaking down borders and learning to see that people from
different cultures may have similar experiences in everyday activities and
relationships. However, the thorny relationship between Israeli Jews and Arabs
is never verbalized in the film. Instead, the narrative is much more interested
in the personal dynamics of each character, and this makes for a wholly
enjoyable film.

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