"The Band's Visit": Point and Counterpoint By Andrzej Werner

in 52nd Valladolid International Film Festival

by Andrzej Werner

It does not happen that often to find a film, especially one made by an unknown director, which you not only accept but admire without hesitation and enjoy at the same time. I had heard of The Band’s Visit (Bikur Ha-Tizmoret) before and finally I saw it in the competition of the Valladolid International Film Festival.

Everybody thinks they know everything about the true relationships between the Israeli people and the Arabs in every field of life, from psychological, cultural, religious and, of course, a political point of view. We read newspapers, we catch up on television news, don’t we? We all remember the results of the eternal hate: the bomb assaults, the military revenges, the ocean of hatred and blood.

But this Israeli film, which deals with The Alexandria Police Orchestra’s visit to Israel, gives another side. The colonel, who is at same time the commander of the group and the conductor of the band, begins with great self-confidence, even if he seems a little bit lost at the airport. But everything gets worse in a small town somewhere in the southwest of Israel, where the band ends up by mistake, without the support of the Embassy, without money, hotel or any means of transport and surrounded, as we can imagine, by an unfriendly, if not openly hostile population.

Population? One of the most fascinating achievements of the film directed by Eran Kolirin is the observation and the demonstration of how people can free themselves from the power of collective imagination and the ideas which are dependent on the power itself. The most important instrument of such liberation is to see people as individuals, not as representations of common and schematic notions.

There is an Israeli woman who does not see the Arabs in uniforms but as a group of men completely lost in a hopeless situation. And every single one of them is seen by her as an individual. She takes care of some of them, especially of the colonel, organizes, with the help of her friends, a warm welcome. And then, in the friendly atmosphere everybody reveals his own personality, becomes a true individual, without the false mirror of the collective notions, in the real world of their own problems without the frame of the fiction created by the politicians for their own sake. They have their mutual language — music — in the contemporary world people love not only their own kind of music, they can admire the full diversity of the genres. But this plays a metaphorical role as well.

Is it not a little naïve? No, I do not think so. Of course the common experience shows an image which is much more complicated and not so optimistic. But The Band’s Visit shows the possibility, which is, as far as I know, rooted in the reality. And it shows, not explicitly, however, the mechanism which ignites the potentiality to work and become a real human power.

It is hard to believe that this is the first feature film of Eran Kolirin. Simplicity is not easier than complexity, especially if it expresses such a wealth of emotions and the wisdom and profound diagnosis of the fictitious world created by politicians and the media.