Droll, humane, sensitively composed, exquisitely paced, Bikur Ha-Tizmoret is Israeli writer-director Eran Kolirin’s first feature. This beautiful comedy swept the Israeli Film Academy Awards, winning in eight categories including best film, director, screenplay, actor (Sasson Gabai) and actress (Ronit Elkabetz). It also won three prizes at Cannes for young Kolirin.
The eight-member Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra has arrived in Israel for the opening of an Arab arts center in Petah Tiqva the next night. Lost, they’ve ended up instead in the sleepy town of Beit Hatikva—and they’ve missed the last bus out. Moreover, there is no hotel. Dina, who runs a small restaurant, takes in a couple of the Egyptian musicians and arranges lodging for the rest. During their one night together, the Arabs and Jews become part of one another’s lives. Indeed, for all of Dina’s wry, crackling, sophisticated personality and the wit generated by the cuts from one shot to the next, this is a soulful film from start to finish. Across the Arab-Israeli divide, characters respond to the kindness and loneliness of strangers.
Solemn orchestra leader Tawfiq Zacharaya discloses to Dina a tragic stretch of personal history for which he blames himself; after their son, who “was fragile, like his mother,” committed suicide, Tawfig’s wife either also committed suicide or, grief-stricken, became fatally ill. Tawfig can tell Dina all this, opening and unburdening at least a portion of his heart, precisely because they will part the next day and never see each other again. Deft, light, unsentimental, Kolirin lets his comedy remain a comedy, but one admitting fine touches of rue and barely concealed unhappiness.
Because half the dialogue is in English, a language that all the characters share, Kolirin’s film was barred from Oscar consideration in the foreign-language category.
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