Sweet mu­sic

THE BAND’S VISIT/BIKUR HA-TIZMORET Di­rected by Eran Kolirin. Star­ring Ronit Elk­a­betz, Sas­son Gabai, Uri Gavriel, Imad Jabarin, Ahuva Keren Club, IFI, Dublin, 87 min

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

ONE can imag­ine worse things than a Mid­dle East­ern ver­sion of Lo­cal Hero. That is what Eran Kolirin has de­liv­ered here and, though the film is slight and a tad naive, it’s never less than charm­ing. You’d have to be a cad of the high­est or­der to dis­like it.

The Band’s Visit fol­lows an Egyp­tian po­lice band as they make their way to Is­rael for a con­cert at a re­mote Arab cul­tural cen­tre. Con­fused by the He­brew place names, they take the wrong bus and wind up in a de­press­ingly windswept set­tle­ment some dis­tance from their de­sired des­ti­na­tion. Hap­pily, the owner of a lo­cal cafe – a sar­donic wo­man ap­proach­ing mid­dle-age – takes pity on the men and ar­ranges ac­com­mo­da­tion for the night.

Var­i­ous quirky ad­ven­tures en­sue. One young blade is dragged to a bleak disco where he tu­tors his hosts in se­duc­tion tech­niques. Three of the mu­si­cians find them­selves caught in the cross­fire of a dis­in­te­grat­ing mar­riage. Tewfic, the sober leader of the band, de­vel­ops a touch­ing – and en­tirely pla­tonic – friend­ship with Dina, the lonely restau­ra­teur. Some prob­lems get solved. Oth­ers prove in­sur­mount­able.

The ac­tion takes place in a lo­ca­tion that seems trapped in an ear­lier era. Mo­bile phones or com­put­ers are nowhere to be seen. The kids dance to an de­press­ing au­ral stew com­posed of the of­fal ripped from 1970s disco. It seems un­likely that the Is­raeli tourist bureau will be send­ing Eran Kolirin gift bas­kets any time soon.

Though the satel­lite sto­ries are amus­ing, the heart of the film re­mains the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Tewfic and Dina. Sas­son Gabai brings heart-break­ing dig­nity to the con­duc­tor, while Ronit Elk­a­betz is end­lessly en­gag­ing as his new pal. Re­fresh­ingly, while mulling over their re­spec­tive am­bi­tions and dis­ap­point­ments, they barely con­sider their cul­tural dif­fer­ences.

The film-mak­ers’ im­plicit in­cli­na­tions to­wards cross­com­mu­nity tol­er­ance are never blurted out. That is as it should be.

At the hop in The Band’s Visit

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