There seems to be a pattern that appears in most Lebanese movies. The need to teach a moral lesson on a particular social issue. Ziad Doueiri’s “The Insult” does not fit into the category of instructive films but rather, it depicts a simple story – one that is packed with food for thought.
Doueiri’s oeuvre boasts “West Beirut”, a narrative unfolding about the Lebanese civil war.
The story revolves around a Lebanese Christian, Tony, masterfully portrayed by Adel Karam, and a Palestinian, Yasser, skillfully played by Kamel El Basha, which face off in court after an insult is thrown at Tony by Yasser following an incident. From there, a series of unfortunate events unfolds.
Starting off as a simple, small and attorney-less court case, it soon escalates into a highly publicized and politically-charged mess of a lawsuit, with mass media coverage, accompanied by huge public interest and engagement.
“The Insult” is an unapologetic yet extremely successful attempt at portraying Lebanese society stripped of embellishment or censorship. It says it like it is, without the need for any moral high-ground or hidden agenda, while still producing character identification.
The characters themselves are very relatable. They are not role models, nor villains, but rather members of the Lebanese society, as seen in our everyday lives.
This film is engaging. As the movie progresses, moments of laughter are followed by intense seriousness. Doueiri manages to entice the audience using the plot line and provides moments that keep spectators at the edge of their seats awaiting a character’s next word or movement.
Not only is the script highly interesting and convincing, but the score smoothly accompanies the frames. The script comes to life through the powerful cast. In particular, Camille Salameh, who plays Tony’s lawyer, stands out. Despite not having a lead role, Salameh steals the spotlight with his striking talent.
Overall, “The Insult” is a beautifully shot and wonderfully woven piece. It elevates the standards of Lebanese cinema as it forcefully earns its 5-minute standing ovation at the Venice International Festival.