Designed to provoke (but ultimately to reflect) The Insult is a powerful film with politics at its core.
In present-day Beirut, Tony Hanna (Adel Karam) is a passionate member of the Christian Party. He’s a motor mechanic who employs a number of workers. His wife, Shirine (Rita Hayek), is expecting their first child. Opposite their apartment, a Palestinian refugee crew is undertaking some maintenance work. Head of the crew, Yasser (Kamel El Basha), discovers the drain pipe on Tony and Shirine’s home is not to standard. Toni however doesn’t respond to his overtures, so Yasser takes it on himself to remedy the problem.
Tony doesn’t like that one little bit and matters quickly escalate. He’s insulted. Before long, tensions result in a physical assault and then a court case … and another that has Christians and Palestinians in open conflict. Both men’s past lives are opened up and traumas revealed.
Co-writer and director Ziad Doueiri’s premise came from an experience he had several years ago in Beirut. He had an argument with a plumber, something very banal, but tempers quickly flared and Doueiri uttered some inflammatory words. The incident may have been trivial, but he maintains that subconscious feelings are not. The words uttered were the result of deeply personal feelings and emotions. Doueiri’s co-writer on this movie, Joëlle Touma, was there that day. She persuaded him to apologise to the plumber, but the plumber refused to accept his apology … and the event became something much more. Doueiri realised he had good material for a script.
Twists and turns abound in The Insult. While the actors at times push too far, but the basic contention is well made. Individual bias immediately comes in to play. Words cut to the quick. They are war cries. They serve to rally, to cajole and this movie pushes that. It’s a great concept that makes for compelling entertainment.
One thing is certain: there are no easy answers and there never will be. That goes to the essence of human nature, which appears to be power, control and division. Need it be so? Perhaps not. But on the other hand, if it’s imbued in us … who’s to say.
This thought-provoking film is best seen with a companion so who you can discuss it afterwards.
Director: Ziad Doueiri
Cast: Adel Karam, Rita Hayek, Kamel El Basha
Release Date: 30 August 2018
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television