The best news out of the Middle East so far this year is this fresh, funny, engaging take on cross-cultural miscommunication.
The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra has been invited to play at the Arab Cultural Center in Israel. Its an important assignment since budget cuts and internal reorganization have threatened the Egyptian musicians very existence.
Dressed in crisp, powder-blue uniforms and observing full military police protocol, they arrive at the Tel Aviv airport with no one to greet them. Unable to contact their Israeli hosts or the Egyptian consulate for help, they board a bus thats, ostensibly, bound for their destination but, instead, wind up on the barren outskirts of a tiny desert town.
Faced with seven hungry, bewildered men, the stoic orchestra leader, Tewfiq (Sasson Gabai) seeks help from Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), the proprietor of a small cafe. Realizing their plight and the fact that the next bus wont come until the following day, she not only feeds them but arranges for Tewfiq and his men to stay overnight with her and some of her less-than-hospitable friends. Inevitably, the evening leads to some curious confusion, a bit of chaos and a large measure of compassion on both sides.
Israeli writer/director Eran Kolirins shrewdly imagined characters, full of resonant human feeling, propel the subtle, wryly comedic story. Sultry Ronit Elkabetz, sizzling with sexuality, and Sasson Gabai, poignant as the uptight widower, make an unlikely duo, but the best scene involves ladies man Haleds (Saleh Bakri) gently picaresque encounter in a roller-skating rink.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, The Bands Visit is a droll, charming 9. Its a shame that a technicality there is English, as well as Hebrew and Arabic – disqualified it from Oscar contention.