In a surprise move, Abu Dhabi's Middle East International Film Festival (MEIFF), October 14-19, has selected an Israeli film to play in competition. Head programmer Nancy Collet issued the invitation to Eran Kolirin's Cannes favourite The Band's Visit, which is about the visit of an Egyptian marching band to a remote town in Israel.

'As Israelis this is a great honour for us. Ever since we released the film in Cannes we keep hoping to get invitations from Arab or Muslim festivals,' producer Eilon Ratzkovsky told 'It means a lot for us considering that fact that the film has Arab actors and Arabic dialogue.'

It's highly unusual for an Israeli film to screen at an Arab festival; like most of the Gulf states, the UAE does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and generally bans Israeli passport-holders from entering the country.

The issue of whether the director, producers and actors, including Palestinians with Israeli passports, could attend is yet to be resolved. 'We have our fingers crossed,' said Rayzkovsky. MEIFF officials commented that the programme is still to be confirmed.

(Dan Fainaru contributed to this report.)