The Insult (2018)
Arriving with a bang, Lebanon received its first nomination for Ziad Doueiri’s The Insult. The story of two men at odds–one of Lebanese Christian, one a Palestinian Muslim–whose feud speaks for a country in turmoil. When a foreman is splashed by run-off from an illegal gutter, he takes it upon himself to fix the issue despite the resistance from the tenant. This cascades into a battle of wills that exemplify the difficulties of a society “invaded” by outsiders who have a history of violence in their new home country. Doueiri’s film is essential viewing for the emotions that go into this refugee-laden society.
Deep contrition is found in each side of this story. The male ego and nationalist hysteria are present from the beginning. Neither of the men handling their insults makes any justifiable sense. Their hatred is hardly connected to the initial incidents of their collision. The Christian side Tony (Adel Karam) believes his actions were accidental, and he was invaded by Muslim Yasser (Kamel El Basha). Yasser was following the purpose of his job and was reactionary to cruelty inflicted by a hateful Tony. Karam as Tony is abrasive and defensive. He’s got some deep shit to get over before he’ll allow himself to apologize, and El Basha as Yasser is hardly grown in his further years. Their dignity is worth more than the Lebanese president’s request, and yes, the issue gets that much attention.
Tony’s lawyer Wajdi Wehbe (Camille Salameh) grounds the film as a stern, coyly manipulative lawyer, practiced in political defense, who wraps the case into his own circus. What could have been a misunderstanding became a national issue thanks to dredging up the worst of men in crises. Doueiri’s construction is taut and intriguing; more accessible than The Square, less crushing than The Wound or Felicite. Catch this film at Grand Illusion through 2/22. It might just win the Oscar.