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Interview: Eran Kolirin, writer-director of “The Band’s Visit”

posted by Nell Minow

“The Band’s Visit” is a bittersweet story about isolation and connections. Israeli writer-director Eran Kolirin talked to me about the movie, his first feature film, which follows an Egyptian police band on their way to perform at an Arab cultural center in Israel who mistakenly end up in the wrong city, an isolated outpost where they have to spend the night.

Was there a true story that inspired this movie?

No, not at all. It began with the image of the main character, dressed in a very strict police uniform singing an Arabic song.

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A very strict police uniform? That’s a good way to describe it. The image of those pale blue dress uniforms is so striking.

It was an aestheic decision. It is a movie of contraction most of the time. In the frame, in the picture, there is all this monochromatic scenery, and then there is a man who is totally the opposite.

Are the Egyptians in the movies played by Egyptian actors?

All of the actors are Israelis, but two are Israeli-Palestinian and one is descended from Iraqi Jews. Identity in Israel is very complex. My own family is seven generations in Jerusalem. Sasson Gabai, who plays the Lieutenant-colonel, the leader of the band is Jewish by religion, Israeli from his ID card, but comes from an Arab country so he has an Arab background. Saleh Bakri, who plays one of the other Egyptians is Israeli by nationality, Palestinian from his cultural identify, Arab also, and Muslim from religion.

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Were there problems of communication or cultural or political clashes between the actors?

You get along fine when you work together.

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  • Big_Dave_T

    Wonder if Kolerin had any comment on the socio-political context of this film’s release. Afterall, it was banned from being shown at the Cairo International Film Festival because, well, despite the film’s upbeat premise, Arabs and Jews do not get along that well in real life.

  • Nell Minow

    You are right, Big Dave. I think that is part of what makes the movie so touching and poignant. That is one thing movies do very well — give us a dream of interpersonal possibilities that transcend geopolitical conflicts.

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