The Band’s Visit
The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arrives in Israel to play at the opening of an Arab Cultural Center. Dressed in full regalia and observing all military police protocol, the members of the orchestra are at a pivotal time in their careers. It’s not just the political nature of an Arab military police band playing traditional Arab music in Israel that makes this event so important; budget cuts and many reorganizations have threatened the continued existence of the Orchestra. Faced with the heavy burden of this assignment, the stoic conductor Tewfiq (Sasson Gabai) is determined not to foul their excursion. Despite all Tewfiqs efforts, it’s not long before problems arise. The band arrives at the airport with no one there to greet them. Stranded and unable able to contact their Israeli hosts or the Egyptian consulate for help, Tewfiq decides that the Orchestra will persevere with its assignment and orders, and designates Khaled, a sauve young ladies man (Saleh Bakri), to ask for directions. Khaled and the station agent struggle in English, Arabic and Hebrew to communicate, but despite their best efforts, the Orchestra is sent to the outskirts of a small forgotten Israeli town in the desert. Faced with an unknown landscape, and disgruntled and hungry men, Tewfiq brings the men to a small café in the nearby town and humbly asks the proprietor, Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), for lunch. Not wanting the turn the Orchestra away, Dina invites the men to stay with her and a few of her friends. To punish Khaled for his earlier subordination, Tewfiq orders Khaled to stay with him at Dina’s, while the other men break up and follow their hosts for the night. Dina brings the two men to her modest apartment where they begin to discuss not the political issues that divides their two cultures, but it’s the intimate details of their personal lives that bring the trio closer together. Before long, Dina’s wry, playful self-confidence, and undisguised sexuality make Tewfiq immediately uncomfortable. Regardless, she is persistent in her attraction to the older, serious Tewfiq, and after some prodding from Khaled, the melancholy band leader reluctantly accepts Dina’s invitation to dinner. The proud Arab man in his powder blue military uniform and the free-spirited Israeli woman make an odd couple at the local restaurant, but her persistent compassion breaks through his gentlemanly demeanor and the duo form a bridge of understanding. With the older Dina and Tewfiq gone from the apartment, Khaled decides to tag along with people closer to his age and convinces the shy and insecure Papi (Shlomi Avraham) to let him join as the fourth wheel on a double date night at a roller disco. When Papi fails to court the girl his cousin set up as his blind date, Papi turns to the suave Khaled for advice. With a little prodding and a lot of direction, Khaled helps Papi break the ice with his date. Meanwhile, the other band members, headed by second-in-command Simon (Khalifa Natour), stay with Itzik (Rubi Moscovich), which ultimately lead to tensions with his family and to revelations about fulfillment that cross cultural boundaries. When the band leaves in the morning for their intended destination, it is clear that their unplanned detour was worth the trip.