I went to see the gem of a film “The Band’s Visit” last weekend. It’s Israeli director Eran Kolirin’s debut feature movie. What a splendid way to start a career. Not a frame is wasted. Not a single word of excess in the dialogue. This is the way I think movies should be made.
The story is simple: an Egyptian police band goes to an Israeli settlement in the West Bank to play a concert at an Arab Cultural Center. But the band ends up in the wrong settlement, the last bus of the day is gone, and they’re left to their own devices and have to squat with a handful of generous Israelis.
The quiet action revolves around Tewfik, the elder head of the group; Khaled, the youngest and newest member of the band who is obsessed with Chet Baker; and their host for the evening, Dina, played by the charming Ronit Elkabetz who can say a thousand words with a twitch of her eyebrow.
I mention this film because of the following dialogue between Tewfik and Dina, and their conclusion about music in this age.
Dina: So, what do you play in the orchestra? You play like army music?
Tewfik: No, we are like a traditional orchestra. We play classical Arab music.
Dina: What, like Umm Kulthum? Farid?
Dina: But why police need to play Umm Kulthum?
Tewfik: This is like asking why a man needs a soul.
Long awkward pause
Dina: Hey. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I mean it’s nice.
Tewfik: It’s OK. You are not the only one who thinks that way. Music today is not that important anymore.
Dina: What do you mean?
Tewfik: Well, people today care about other things. Money. Efficiency. Worth.
Dina: People are stupid, aren’t they?
Tewfik: Yes. They are sometimes.