The Insult


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Insult
"Ziad Doueiri's latest film shows how the embers of history can stay warm for a long time, easily flaring up under the right circumstances - even those that seem innocuous."

Ziad Doueiri's latest film shows how the embers of history can stay warm for a long time, easily flaring up under the right circumstances - even those that seem innocuous.

Things don't get more trivial than a leaky piece of guttering, but it's enough to kindle animosity between the owner of the home it is attached to, Tony Hanna (Adel Karam), and the head of a local building crew Yasser Salameh (Kamel El Basha). Garage owner Hanna is a staunch follower of the Christian Party - one of the chief tenets of which is the preservation of a distinct 'Lebanese' identity as distinct from its Arab neighbours - while Salameh is Palestinian, who despite living in Beirut for years still falls into an employment 'grey' area because he is classed as a refugee.

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This means their dislike of what the other represents is just waiting for an opportunity to flare up, so what should end as an exchange over the leaky pipe, quickly escalates to a slanging match. Before you can say, 'Calm down, lads', both men have entrenched and insult leads to injury.

Of course, this is not just a matter of a piece of plastic but the latest local flare up in a conflict stretching back to the country's civil war, with Doueiri showing how years can pass while animosity lies not so much dormant, as biding its time ready to pounce.

Just as the political has come down to the personal in the first moments of the argument, so the situation escalates back up to the macro level as the men find themselves in court. At this point, Doueiri settles into a courtroom drama rhythm that is less engaging than what has gone before.

The director starts to lay things on thick, not least by introducing a secondary conflict between the two lawyers representing the men (Camille Salameh and Diamand Bou Abboud), while also stoking up the secondary drama via an imperilled newborn.

For all the speechifying in court, the strength of the film lies in the two main protagonists slowly coming to realise the implications of their actions as they spot they are in too deep only once they start drowning. Doueiri latches on to the way that grudges, irrational or not, can poison what they touch, and that when everyone refuses to back down, the sky is the limit for conflict, even when those all around are urging calm. Doueiri may not offer an simple solution for getting out of this sort of confrontation but he shows how all too easy it is to get in it in the first place.

Reviewed on: 20 Feb 2018
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The Insult packshot
A spat between Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee leads to division between their two communities.

Director: Ziad Doueiri

Writer: Ziad Doueiri, Joelle Touma

Starring: Adel Karam, Kamel El Basha, Camille Salameh, Diamand Bou Abboud, Rita Hayek, Talal Jurdi, Christine Choueiri, Julia Kassar, Rifaat Torbey, Carlos Chahine

Year: 2017

Runtime: 112 minutes

Country: US, France, Belgium, Lebanon, Cyprus

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