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                        Excerpts from A Telephone Interview with Erin Kolirin

                                    Director of “The Band’s Visit”

                                    Dallas , Texas , February 4, 2008

 

Outlook:  I was interested in how the members of the Orchestra wore their uniforms throughout, suits and ties and all, even on the bus.

EK:  Yes, that was part of the contrast between the remote location and their very formal appearance.

Outlook:  It was filmed in the Negev , right?

EK:  Yes, in the desert.

Outlook:  The character of Dina, Ronit Elkabetz:  had you worked with her before?

EK:  A very famous Israeli actress, but I had not met her before.

Outlook:  I found her to be very expressive, with gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice….

EK:  She’s a very devoted actress, works very hard, and gave me many remarks about the script, which was good.

Outlook:  Did she do everything according to script, or was there some ad lib going on in the dialogue?

EK:  With a few exceptions, we followed the script closely.

Outlook:  I suppose that as the writer, you wanted to direct the scenes as close to the script as possible?

EK:  I’m a man who doesn’t like surprises.  Kind of like a control freak. (laughs)

Outlook:  The character of Haled, Saleh Bakri, had you worked with him before?

EK:  I had not worked with any of the actors prior to this movie.

Outlook:  He seems to have a strong comic sense about him.

EK:  Yes, he knows how to put on the poker face. Although he may seem very nonchalant, he’s a hard-working type of actor.

Outlook:  You had a lot of poker faces.

EK:  Yeah, I like poker faces.

Outlook:  I guess that was a way for the audience to invest the characters with emotion?

EK:  Yes, it encourages the participation of the audience.

Outlook:  I understand that Israel was not able to enter this film as a foreign language entry for the Academy Awards because of the majority of English dialogue.  Was that disappointing to you?

ER:  I wasn’t aware of the rule, and during the movie I wasn’t thinking about it.  Even if I had known, I wouldn’t have changed anything just because someone might have given some recognition.

Outlook:  I guess that in that part of the world, if you have an Israeli and an Egyptian meet each other, they’re much more likely to have English in common than Hebrew or Arabic.

ER:  Exactly.  And that’s part of the tragedy.  Israelis and Egyptians don’t know each other’s languages, and if there is to be any communication, it has to be in English.

Outlook:  I got the feeling that Dina was trying all evening to seduce Tawfiq, but unsuccessfully, and Haled wound up being a substitute at the end.

ER:  I never thought of what Dina was doing as seducing in any way, though anyone may think what he likes.  It was more Tawfiq resonating with her sense of lost dreams.  True love just wasn’t possible, and so in the absence of true love, you settle for one-night stands.

Outlook:  Did you consider another ending, where the Orchestra would never get to play, but would just go back home in futility?

ER:  Yes, I considered that, but for the character of Tawfiq, it was like a religious obligation to follow through on his commitment.

Outlook:  What was the significance of “My Funny Valentine”?

ER:  It was to take the music out of any regional, political context.  For the character of Haled, it was a generational thing, trying to reach past his roots, to know something about America and its music.  For Tawfiq, it was being rooted in his own musical tradition, but also being able to appreciate Western tradition.  That’s what makes them, for me, real artists.

Outlook:  So old American music was sort of a safe place to go?

ER:  Yes, a way to communicate between generations, without losing cultural identity.

Outlook:  Do you hope that your film, in some small way, might promote understanding between Israel and Egypt ?

ER:  It’s one thing to hope, but realistically, No.  Not one little bit.

 

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas