Set in the fictional town of Bet Hatikvah, the Israeli film The Band’s Visit (2007) tells the story of how this small, dull community is shaken up by the accidental visit of an Egyptian police orchestra. David Yazbeck and Itamar Moses have transformed the movie into an English-language musical. Ben Brantley writes in his appreciative review:
The Band’s Visit uses a well-worn formula that hasn’t stopped being recycled since Oedipus stumbled into Thebes. That’s the good old story of a stranger—or in this case strangers, an entire Egyptian police band —arriving in a sleepy town and shaking it to its foundations.
Think of The Rainmaker, Shane, or even The Music Man, in which that stranger’s kiss (or gunshot or con act) winds up transforming lives forever. The Band’s Visit flirts with the clichés of such a scenario, and then triumphantly fails to consummate them. Just when you think it’s going to deliver big on an anticipated clincher, it pulls back, and that withdrawal feels far more satisfying than the expected obvious climax.
Consider, for example, the possible political implications of the plot. . . . Uninvited Arabs in Israel? Surely, we can anticipate a fraught cultural collision and a subsequent feel-good reconciliation, proving that even perceived adversaries have more in common than they thought. But nationalistic tensions are touched upon only glancingly.
Instead, the Bet Hatikvans are delighted, in their low-key way, by the mere novelty of these traveling musicians, led by their dignity-conscious conductor Tewfiq, who wear robin’s-egg-blue uniforms that make the townspeople think of Michael Jackson.