Monday, August 18, 2008

The Band's Visit

Capturing a 36-hour period in Israel, this indie foreign film tells the story about an Egyptian military orchestra and the ordeal they encountered when they arrive at their venue--or, rather, what they thought was their venue. The band ends up in the wrong town, a rural town without much going on, and is unable to get another bus to the correct destination; Forced to stay in the town [for the night], what unfolds is the formation of relationships between the Egyptian visitors and the Israeli locals, as well as those among band members.

Thankfully this film is not based on the cultural gaffs between the ethnicities. Dave Chappelle is funny, but the whole racial humor thing is a bit worn out in my opinion (does anyone seriously think that Carlos Mencia is funny?). Instead of ethnic jokes (Arab vs. Jew) or religious jokes (Muslim vs. Judaism), the humor is subtle and well-placed and would work well in any language (sidenote: you might want to watch this film with the subtitles on as the Egyptian and Jewish characters converse to each other in English and it is hard to understand sometimes).

This isn't a film that's going to bowl you over or blow you away, but it's a solid piece of filmmaking and it's refreshing to see the Middle East through this lens (i.e. not blowing each other up). Both people groups are portrayed as people with problems--real problems that transcend ethnicity, religion, and nationality--and by the film's end you care about the characters more than you thought you might due to the movie's austere beginning.

Final Grade: B+
Blurb: A simple film that doesn't shoehorn the weighty emotion of outside forces into the storyline, but instead has vignette-like qualities which still adequately convey the characters' emotions. One of the better foreign films I've seen recently.

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