Directed by Ziad Doueiri
A minor incident between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee turns into an explosive trial that ends up dividing the two communities.
‘The Insult’ is a Lebanese drama directed by Ziad Doueiri and nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars. It possesses a narrative wisdom that maybe only comes for those who have lived through generational turmoil and who have grown in self-knowledge beyond their emotional conditioning. By presenting this understanding of human nature it already goes far beyond the scope of most cinematic experiences. And it is compelling! Can’t ask for much more in any work of art or enlightenment.
However, ‘The Insult’ does go farther. It addresses the phenomena of fashionable politics and also the filtered perspectives that so often accompanies deep rooted inter-generational beliefs. ‘The Insult’ takes on the depiction of this personal and political programing and manages to flesh it out with subtlety.
In a nutshell, 'The Insult' is set in modern(ish) day Beirut. Two men are having a dispute which ends in a high profile court case and provokes civil violence. The two men at the centre of this conflagration are ‘Tony’ (Adel Karam), a Lebanese Christian and a member of the Christian Party and Yasser Abdallah Salameh (Kamel El Basha), a Palestinian refugee. Both men are hard-working family men who love their wives, value their staff and care about the quality of their work. Neither can see these attributes in the other. What they feel in the fit of rage produced by a silly dispute over an illegal drainpipe is their own deeply embedded grief and fury, the product of their tragic personal histories.
Things get more interesting still when the Christian Party decide to pay Tony's legal fees and make him a poster boy for their cause and Yasser is approached by a passionate young lawyer who feels that the Palestinians have suffered too much injustice. Quite obviously both legal representatives have their own agendas to push that go way beyond the illegal plumbing.
A court case ensues and the police guard find it increasingly difficult to secure the courtroom, as the supporters of both strangely silent men provoke a virtual war that spills out over the city. Nothing seems to be about the drain pipe. Everything seems to be about history and politics.
I don’t know whether the cast of 'The Insult' is famous in the Middle East but they are certainly impressive. Hollywood frequently misses out on ‘profound’ because it is too difficult to believe that, say, Meryl Streep or Tom Hanks are not famous actors, while an cast of unknowns allow you to sink far more completely into a film’s spell.
The two men at the coal face do come to a resolution amidst the smashing of buildings and the burning of cars while a father and a daughter on opposing sides of the courtroom find a strange respect for each other hitherto unknown (or definitely forgotten in their recent relationship).
I won’t tell you more.
Watch 'The Insult'.