The Band's Visit - Israel - Dir: Eran Kolirin

This first feature by Israeli TV writer/director Kolirin has a heart of gold. He has said that as a boy he and his family and friends would watch Egyptian films on TV every Friday, and they made a deep impression on him: meodramas, soap operas, musicals - and all the while the 2 countries were at war. This paradox forms the very core of Kolirin's film.

The film opens with a confident visual style: not naturalism, but a kind of heightened reality - not surreal, but pared-back, symbolic, almost like a parable. We see a white van, and behind that, a small band in full military uniform - in powder blue. They are at an airport, but it is almost deserted. The band leader has an unmistakeable air of dignity to him. But they are clearly fish-out-of-water.

After some amusing confusion, they are on a bus riding through vast expanses of desert, until they arrive in the middle of nowhere. The film has adopted a sweet, sardonic tone, reminiscent of Aki Kurasmaki and his Leningrad Cowboys, but with more dignity.

What follows is frequently hilarious, and often very moving. Kolirin, who also wrote the screenplay, manages to deal with the personal issues of each member of the band, but so economically and with such humour and compassion that we barely register the thoroughness of the process.  There's a scene in a roller disco that is just a masterclass in bittersweet comedy. And the final scenes, when we actually hear what the band has come to play, are a revelation.  This is the true nature of these Egyptians. This is their culture. This is what they have to offer.

Likewise, The Band's Visit is a revelation.