Written and directed by Israeli filmmaker Eran Kolirin, The Band's Visit has many graces you might not expect to find in a film from a first-time director: A meticulous sense of timing, a gift for small-scale naturalism, a dry sense of humor, a warm sense of humanity. The Band's Visit hangs on a pretty slender thread in terms of plotting -- a visiting police band has flown in for a performance and found themselves abandoned, left to fend for themselves, winding up in the wrong town and dependent on the kindness of strangers. But a few simple facts are going to complicate matters: The band's from Egypt; they're stranded in Israel.

Kolirin's musicians are a motley crew; the leader, Tewfiq (Sasson Gabai) is a clipped and courtly gentleman, dedicated to the orchestra's work and worth; his second-in-command, Simon (Khalifia Natour) is frustrated with how his own original compositions are blocked; sleepy-eyed Haled (Saleh Bakri) is the band's newest member, who seems interested in the band only insofar as it lets him dodge other duties on the force and meet women. They're not exactly a band of brothers, and their normal tensions and rivalries are exacerbated by the constantly present but constantly unspoken stress and strain of being lost in a nation that their nation's been to war with. ...