Why can't we awkwardly get along? ["The Band's Visit"]
Threatening images leap at us from all across the Middle East from the screen.
Intentionally, though, "The Band's Visit" leaves out politics, religiosity, big oil and all such incendiary material. This small film cuts the human condition down to size by focusing on awkwardness. It's worth seeing this movie just to experience the humble look and feel of an Egyptian man and an Israeli woman whose lives intersect for less than a day.
The man has a face like Ben Kingsley's playing Gandhi, but he would never claim any special wisdom or humanitarian perspective. For him, it is struggle enough to manage his modest career as the band leader of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra.
The woman has the look of vitality pigeonholed by romantic possibilities that have passed her by. For her, the sight of eight foreign men, in powder blue uniforms, stranded in the wrong town, is a novel way to make it to tomorrow.
The Egyptian band members add critical mass to the awkwardness, most notably a tall young man who lends a modestly outgoing spirit to an odd story. Several Israeli characters add balance to the heartbeats in a sterile desert setting.
For people who know how to attend a film where nothing happens, "The Band's Visit" is a respite from the weight of international crisis, without sacrificing sensitivity to that bigger picture.
The country of Israel is about the size of the state of Massachusetts. About seven million people live in each. Why is the airport in this film so uncongested? Why does a mix up or two leave this group of music makers so stuck and so forlorn? Why is the town with its row of high rise residence buildings so inanimate?
No matter. The tone of this film is confident and genuine. Director Eran Kolarin's choices help you believe this infrastructure of awkwardness.
Curiously, "The Band's Visit" was disqualified as a Best Foreign Language Film nominee in the last round of Oscars. The reason: too much English was spoken. A few Egyptians and a few Israelis share a common language and more. It's a nice notion and a nice film.
It is scheduled to run from April 9-20 at The Magic Theatre and on April 11-13 at the Nevada Theatre.