Page 1

Middle Eastern Cinema Final Draft: Paper 1 Noah Feldman

Managing the Unmanagable As human beings, morality is quesitoned by the types of behaviors that we exhibit onto ourselves and to others. The choices that one makes can have a direct effect in a good or bad way. However, these behaviors are ultimately effected by the type of relationships that people build with others (i.e. friendship, sexual, partnership, etc). Eran Kolirin, director of the film The Band’s Visit explores the idea that relationships can be made with regards to the history and past of two different cultural identities. He insists that by putting a group of organized Egyptian men into a foriegn place, their ability to adapt is correlated with the people they meet. The differences of each group representing their country are pushed aside in a realization of friendship and hospitality. It is then when one can manage a situation that seems unmanagable and ultimately have a positive experience. The landscape of the film is important because it hints at the atmosphere of the surrounding area and location of Israel. At first, we notice that the landscape is desolate; long stretches of desert land, road, and wind. There is a hollow wind that fills the air only to be accompanied by the occasional bus that stops once everyday. The air is dry and timid, which makes it seem like no life exists. The vast emptiness of the town, including how old the buildings and arcitechture looks is old and gloomy. All of these factors contribute to the lonliness of the town, which will be mentioned later. The landscape, in essence, correlates directly to the feelings of the band and its members. They arrive in a place where everything is desolate, timid, and something that they are unused to. The Alexandria Ceremonial Orchesta is led by Tawfiq, a general and police veteran who sings in and conducts the band. He is a quiet man but shows initiative in terms of leadership to carry out tasks at hand. He is centered and balanced emotionally with one goal in mind, play the


Middle Eastern Cinema Final Draft: Paper 1 Noah Feldman

concert. It is obvious, in the opening scene, when Tawfiq and his band members are standing side by side with no recollection of where they are or how to get to where they need to be. At this point, there lies a big problem. Pertaining to Tawfiq and the band, they experience a change in their realization of thought. Here, we see a group of people who conduct themselves by being extremely organized in both thought and dress. Each member has perfect posture and their uniforms are cleanly pressed and presentable. They do not speak until spoken to and they oblige by the rules of both the police force and the band. When their agenda is not met, it creates a situation in which they now become uncomfortable and out of their element. Tawfiq mentions to his band mate Simon that, “...the band has a reputation of surviving on its own for 25 years...”. The irony of the situation is that although they may seem like they have everything under control, they are completely hopeless in their endeavor. Isolated by the landscape, they have yet to understand what type of culture they are in and how they are going to make it to their destination. As the film continues, Tawfiq and the band meet a group of three Israelis who are in charge of running and maintaining what seems to be the only restaurant in town. This particular encounter demonstrates the difference of culture in terms of both Egypt and Israel and their approach to communicate through oral language. The band had taken a bus to what they thought was their destination, Bet Hatikvah. However, when Tawfiq asks Dina, the owner of the restaurant where Bet Hatikvah is, she responds in confusion, “Betah Tikvah?”. A debate occurs between Dina and one of the workers of the restaurant as to decifer Tawfiq’s request. “Betah? or Petah?” Regardless, it begins to become evident that something as small as pronunciation between countries is something of a cultural difference.


Middle Eastern Cinema Final Draft: Paper 1 Noah Feldman

Because the town where they are staying is so small, Dina decides that she and her two employees will take them in and have them stay with them for the night. Tawfiq quickly refuses with the best intentions and urges to Dina that they can find their own way. Ultimately, Tawfiq and the band decide that this will be the best option. Before they go off with each person, the band decides to eat at the restaurant, for that they haven’t eaten anything all day. In one particular scene, a member of the band notices pictures of war and battle hanging from the walls. As the other band members are eating, he hangs his hat over the pictures so that he cannot view what is in the pictures. This act of putting the hat over the pictures relates to his personal feelings about Israel and that those feelings are negative. Until the signing of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, the two countries did not have respect for one another. Bearing in mind that the film is in present day time, his feelings are an interpretation of the lack of respect one has for another country, in this case Egypt not being fond of Israel. This concept of the lacking of repect for one another is recipricated in the film when a couple of band members go to Itzik’s house for supper. The band members sit next to each other and are exposed to Itzik’s family; these people consisting of Itzik’s wife, mother-in-law and father-in-law. Itzik’s father-in-law implies his lack of respect for the Egyptian culture by not showing the band members curteousy at the dinner table. The mood of the situation is dull and derogatory towards the band members. However, the mood decides to swtich when the father-inlaw asks Simon what type of music the band plays. Simon mentions that they are a traditional Egyptian orchestra band. Understanding that, the father-in-law begins to sing a song which unites everybody at the table. The band members and the men begin to sing this song in celebration and appreciation for music as a culturally accepted thing.


Middle Eastern Cinema Final Draft: Paper 1 Noah Feldman

Music play a very important role in the film with regards to acceptance and change. As mentioned above, it is used to unite two cultures together when they may not see eye to eye on most other things. There is another instance earlier in the film where Simon plays his unfinished Concerto at the restaurant. Itzik hears this and becomes extremely curious. When Simon stops, Itzik asks why. He mentions, “...because I didn’t get a chance to finish it”. Given the fact that the film essentially is designed around the idea of a concert, music has the power to influence people and how they view different cultures. It acts as a universal language which words don’t have to be spoken to understand. Like playing the concerto, or singing aloud with a group of people, music implies that there is still good in the world when there may be bad present. A very significant relationship develops in the film between Tawfiq and Dina, in particular how the two act around one another and what they say to each other. The focus is how open both Tawfiq and Dina are to one another. A pivital realization of human emotion is felt when Tawfiq helps Dina get her coat on. When she brings her arm up, he touches her ever so gently as to imply that his touch breaks the foundation of their countries dislike for one another. Because of this, Dina has felt his touch and is able to understand what type of person Tawfiq is, that being very warm and kind hearted. A glimpse of this is seen when she offers for him to stay with her for the night back at the restaurant. More so, Dina is aware of Tawfiq and develops an intimate yet friendly relationship where they determine the importance of life and what things help factor into that importance. The interesting thing about the “band’s visit” is that without them showing up, the town would still remain lifeless and dead. When Tawfiq and Dina go out into the town, it is apparent to Dina that she now has someone who she can reflect with and have a normal conversation with. As they sit down for a bite to eat, they begin talking about life and what things are important.


Middle Eastern Cinema Final Draft: Paper 1 Noah Feldman

Tawfiq mentions that, “People today care about other things, money, effeciency, worth”. In modern day society, Tawfiq represents the voice of reason. Life is so fast paced that nobody has the time to stop and look around. The landscape of the film is ironic in a sense that because it is dead all the time, all people do is look around. When Tawfiq and the band stop by the town, it creates a new found life which the town had years before it became desolate. It brings back a light that has made the town so dark and dim. This is also apparent when Haled, the band’s “ladies man” helps the other employee to kiss his date. Without the consideration of Haled and his words, the employee would have been too scared to make a sexual advance on the cousin. The emotional and personal connections made by the band members with the other people in the town is something which corresponds to an actual ‘treaty’ that they have set up. By allowing the band members to come into their town, the Israelis accept the people for who they are, and share experiences with them about life, love, and history, which allow for the treaty to be ‘signed’. It’s a representation of acceptance within ones self and another person, which is shown through many of the relationships developed in the film. The resonance with the outside world is alive and the life that was once missing in the town is brought back by the band member’s visit. As far as central themes are concerned, the film breaks the mold in the awareness that people from different countries and backgrounds are, at the core, just people. The film demonstrates that the main contradictions and sterotypes surrounding other countries are squashed when the time is taken out to get to know a person for who he/she is. By making personal connections from the band members and the Israelis, the life that appears dead in the town is restored and things can now resume as they did when there was energy and a willingness to exude kindness. The lonliness is now non-existent, which is shown when Tawfiq sings in the


Middle Eastern Cinema Final Draft: Paper 1 Noah Feldman

concert at the end of the film. Things go back to normal, back on schedule, and the unmanaged reverts back to being mananged.


Managing The Unmanageable  

academic paper on the film 'The Band's Visit' while exploring themes of friendship, sexuality and norms and values of everyday society