Opening 31 Jan 2008
A small police band from Alexandria, Egypt, is invited to perform at the opening of an Arabic cultural center in Petah Tikva, Israel. For unexplained reasons the band is not met at the airport, and conductor Tewfiq (Sasson Gabai) asks young violinist Khaled (Saleh Bakri) to purchase bus tickets to their destination. Khaled is a ladies' man (who also plays jazz trumpet) and, while flirting with the pretty ticket seller, by mistake gets bus tickets to the similar sounding Bet Hatikva.
So they start their journey – each band member in his official dress uniform pulling identical suitcases and carrying his instrument. On arrival, however, they find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere. Bet Hatikva is a small desert town that snack bar/restaurant owner Dina (Ronit Elkabetz) describes as a place with not only no Arabic cultural center, but no Israeli cultural center either. No culture at all! Easy-going Dina turns out to be a real "mensch" and organizes sleeping arrangements for the group of rather shy, reserved policemen. She herself takes in two, Itzik takes home three and the rest stay with Papi in the restaurant.The interaction between the Israeli hosts and their Egyptian guests is the stuff of the rest of the film, and how interesting it is to see, after some misgivings, how well they understand each other. Older, serious Tewfiq reveals his private thoughts to modern, savvy Dina. Khaled offers shy, awkward Papi advice on how to get on with girls. And Simon and his host Itzik quietly discuss love and music while watching Itzik's sleeping baby daughter.
The next morning the band members depart for their real destination, and one is left with the thought that it would be so wonderful if all Israeli and Arab relationships could be so easy! The Band's Visit was suggested for an Oscar for best foreign language film but, unfortunately, doesn't properly fit the category. Because the common language between the Israelis and Egyptians is English, more than 50% of the film is not in a foreign language. However director Eran Kolirin won the European Oscar for best newcomer and Sasson Gabai won best actor. (Thelma Freedman)