Home Page > Movies Index > Comedy | Drama | Musical | > Movie Review

Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Nowhere Band

The Band's Visit (2007) on IMDb

Plot Overview

The Alexandria Police Ceremonial Orchestra arrives in Israel from Egypt for the inaugural opening of the Arab Culture Center in Payed al Hatikva. When there's no delegation waiting (“It's not them”) at the air­port, they must travel the last leg on their own by bus. Since there is no ‘p’ sound in Arabic—Arabs substitute a ‘b’—their ticket request comes out for “Bayed al Hatikva,” which the ticket girl inter­prets as Beit al Hatikva (The House of Hope), a tiny village in the Negev Desert (“Bloody nowhere.”) There the natives explain that not only do they not have a cultural center, they have no culture either. Fortunately, though, they have hospitality, and the eight member band is put up for the night in one residence and one café.

You know the saying: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. So they make the best of it, eating melons, drinking wine, roller skating, and having a good time. Awkwardness abounds. Is this glass of lemon­ade half empty or half full? Is this cultural exchange warm or cool? I'd say, yes, it was a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.


Band member Haled (Saleh Bakri) croons “My Funny Valentine” from time to time through­out the movie. Since this picture high­lights various bromides, I'd say if we're looking for some­thing scrip­tural in it, we should consider the one that pegs the Bible as God's love letter to us. The plot itself is built on a mistrans­lation. Indeed, scholar Neil R. Light­foot writes that the third “in rank among the large vellum [Bible] unicals is the Alex­an­drian Manu­script (A), so called because it is known to have been in Alexandria for several centuries” (39). He goes on to say, “When the Alex­an­drian Codex was first presented to the English king, it caused as much excite­ment at that time as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in our day. It was the first of the three great unicals to come to light” (41). The parallel to “The Band's Visit” is present in an Alexandrian delegation causing a stir.

By Lightfoot's reckoning, “The fourth-century Vatican Manuscript (B) is acknowledged widely as being the most important witness on the text of the New Testament” (36). “One … point worthy of note concerns the ending of the Gospel of Mark. … [T]he Vatican Manu­script does not include Mark 16:9-20. For some strange reason, how­ever, its scribe left at this point more than a column of space blank in his manu­script. This seems to indicate he knew of the existence of these questioned verses” (38). In “The Band's Visit,” clarinetist Simon (Khalifa Natour) plays his lovely but unfinished over­ture for his host Itzik (Rubi Moskovitz) who tells him that he should end the piece, not with a traditional showy display but with what is there for him at the moment, “not sad, not happy, a small room, a lamp, a bed, a child sleeping, and tons of loneli­ness.” Indeed, modern Bible trans­lations using these more recently discovered unicals omit the traditional showy ending of Mark, settling for the one present though it be pedestrian, with “tons of loneli­ness” inasmuch as it lacks Mark 16:20, “the Lord working with them.”

Lightfoot also remarks, “Of almost equal importance to the Vatican Manuscript is the Sinaitic Codex (Aleph). It is known as the Sinaitic Manu­script because it was ‘discovered’ by the great textual critic Constantin Tischendorf at St. Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai” (38–9). Tischendorf lacked the currency to buy it from the non-materialistic abbot, resulting in some controversy over how he managed to obtain it after all. (I expound more in my review of “The Wild Bunch.”) In “The Band's Visit” they have not much Israeli currency, just Egyptian. How they got served in an Israeli restaurant is skipped over in this movie, as well.

“The Band's Visit” seems to bring to mind translation issues regarding manuscripts B, Aleph and A The Textus Receptus (TR) (Received Text) of a slightly more recent vintage is the one on which is based the Authorized King James Version (KJV)—and to a lesser degree the New King James Version. In the movie phone calls to and from the band's embassy were via the same pay phone as was the awaited call from a local's girl­friend. The girl's call represents the “funny Valentine” of a "love letter" in the beloved KJV, the earlier-dated manuscripts being the funny business with trans­lation issues. The Giver of the "Valentine" had promised, (Matt. 24:35) “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away,” but the "girl­friend" didn't say when she'd call, and it seems the local lad had to wait his turn, as we do to get the correct manuscript, not necessarily the first (earliest) one.

Solomon was a wise king familiar with manuscripts. He wrote that, (Eccl. 12:12) “of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” There's no end to trans­lating and it's a pain in the butt to study the original tongues. His recommendation, if we can take this passage in the abstract, is (Eccl. 4:13-14) “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished. For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.” The poor child of the native English forms used in the KJV, being a wise one, suits the church better than the more developed English in the foolish trans­lations that have lately taken over. It's natural for native words to fall out of use, become poor, as it is for the developed language to bring with it baggage it's acquired as would an ex-con. I've developed this view in other reviews. In this movie the youngest band member Haled­—the conductor calls him “son”—demonstrates his wisdom in tutoring the young man Papi (Shlomi Avraham) on his awkward date. Itzik's baby boy is likely to grow up culturally poor, judging by the spartan decor of his room and the even bleaker “park” where children presumably “play.” The intract­able conductor Lieutenant-Colonel Tawfiq Zacharya (Sasson Gabai) can barely be persuaded to take care of feeding his hungry band. He's carrying some serious baggage, we shall learn. It's a wonder he secured his current post.

Production Values

The Band's Visit” (2007) (original title “Bikur Ha-Tizmoret”) was written and directed by young Israeli TV director Eran Kolirin, who cut his teeth watching Arabian TV. He uses English as the common language between these Arabic- and Hebrew-speaking peoples, except the con­ver­sations within each separate group are carried out in their respective Arabic or Hebrew, with (optional) English sub­titles. Scenes in the town of Beit Hatikva were shot in the real town of Yeruham, pop. 9,000, in the Negev desert. “The Band's Visit” stars Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, and Saleh Bakri. It boasts great acting by the entire cast. Sasson Gabai, an Israeli actor, does really fine as a stiff 'General' Tawfiq. Ronit Elkabetz plays café owner Dina with aplomb. The mono­chro­matic desert back­ground is perfectly complemented by the band's powder blue uniforms . They're two peas in a pod. The film is shot in muted tones, some shots set up simply for their photo­graphic value. It employs a back­ground soundtrack of well chosen tunes, from pop to a classical ending. MPAA rated it PG–13 for brief strong language.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“The Band's Visit” was really easy to watch and follow. A lot of camera time is given to people standing around looking perplexed. Gives the situation time to sink in. The film is hardly political but is keenly human. Instead of having car chases, it shows a stranded band dragging their instruments around on those roller wheels. I thought the whole thing was cute. You'll like it if that's your taste.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, Print.

Lightfoot, Neil R.. How We Got the Bible. New York: MJF Books, 2003. Print.