Review: The Band’s Visit B

A Film Review By Stefan Vlahov

Whether Eran Kolirin’s The Band’s Visit will work for you, depends on how passionate you are about the Israeli/Arab conflict in the Middle East. It is the story of an Egyptian band that goes to Israel to perform at the inaugural ceremony of a new Arab arts center, but they get lost along the way and get stuck in a city full of Israelites that they think are bitter towards Arabs like themselves. One of the best parts about Kolirin’s scrip is the initial set up of the preexistent bitterness between Egyptians and Israelites and at one moment there is a feeling that it may blow over to the demise of both groups. But, like many movies that have come out of that corner of the world, The Band’s Visit tells a story of togetherness and acceptance between the two groups. It is a frequently uplifting story that makes the two groups so similar (a good way for Kolirin to prove his point) that at points it is difficult to tell if a character is an Egyptian or an Israelite. So what Kolirin does is, he provides the audience with each mistaken viewpoint of each respective group, and then shatters it in the best way possible – through comedic moments that shine a light on how great an honest interaction between these two groups can be. Therefore, The Band’s Visit is an overall pleasant movie-going experience. It is more melancholy than melodramatic, more humane than political, and definitely funnier than any movie on this sensitive subject can be. Kolirin is also a great filmmaker on the technical side, as he doesn’t let the low budget of this film limit his stylistic sense and the film is about the best cinematographic debut since Rian Johnson’s Brick. One of the things that keeps the film from becoming one of the greatest pieces of cinema of this year is Kolirin’s tendency to make things so unrealistic that sometimes I was not able to feel the appropriate longing for it all to be true, but I just wanted the film to be more grounded. Kolirin’s goal is a noble one and I can safely say that he accomplishes it, but when the film strays into fantasy, and slow-moving fantasy at that, I found myself being taken out of the experience and having to force myself back in it. Granted, these moments are few and far between, and by the end, all I could say was that I had just experienced one of the most rewarding, hopeful, and engrossing films of the year. It is essential viewing for all cultures. We can all learn a lesson from these, unfortunately fictional characters.

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