In The Band’s Visit (2007), Eran Kolirin’s gently low-key character piece, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra – an eight-piece band from Egypt – flies in to Israel to play at the opening of an Arab Cultural Center in Petah Tiqva. Through miscommunication, they take a bus to the similar-sounding Bet Hatikva, a dusty little town in the middle of the Negev Desert. Or, in the words of one inhabitant, “Nowhere.”
“No Arab Cultural Center?” queries Tawfiq (Sasson Gabai), the ranking officer and fastidiously proper conductor of the band. “No culture,” explains Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), the wry owner of the local diner. “Not Israeli culture, not Arab culture. No culture at all.” And to make matters worse, there is no bus back until the next day. So these Egyptian officers in powder blue uniforms become the anxious guests of the wary Israel townsfolk. There is a veneer of politeness and generosity over the tensions of discomfort and, if not exactly suspicion, certainly an uneasiness. Their nations were once enemies and now a troop of uniformed Egyptian policemen wander into town, albeit with musical instruments rather than weapons and the helpless expression of the hopelessly lost.