The Band’s Visit is one of those rare films that creep up on you and catch you unawares. You were expecting maybe a raucous, slapstick-filled festival that will remind you all about the transcendental power of music to bring warring factions together. Inter-religious dancing, perhaps, between Arabs and Jews that will leave you with a reassurance that there is still hope in the Middle East.
But from the very first shot, it’s clear that you’ve set your expectations way too low.
Stuck in a dead desert town in the middle of Israel, a ceremonial police band from Egypt is taken in by Dina, a restaurant owner, an uber-cool, sexy, strong Jewish woman whose presence as the only female lead overpowers all the men in the film. There are no hotels in the town, so she lets a couple of them stay overnight at her house, and persuades one of her regular patrons to take the rest of the band in.
What follows is a night that most of the characters will likely forget as they move on with their lives, but which will stick with you as one of the most charming, warm and hilarious films you never expected to watch. It’s about love kindled and lost, betrayal, awkward friendships struck for no reason other than boredom, disappointment, regret, music, and yes, hope, with lots of laughs thrown in for good measure.
I don’t know how you’ll manage to procure yourself a screening, but do it.