The InsultVenice Film Festival 2017
It’s very gratifying for those who love every aspect of cinema (for instance your reviewer) when a director explores and displays his passion for filmmaking techniques. Ziad Doueiri makes heavy use of steadicams – those devices that make handheld shots fluid, which Kubrick adored so much – to turn the spotlight on the protagonists of this story.
The Insult is pretty much an allegory about any Middle Eastern conflict, 110 minutes that explain better than the same number of books why some populations struggle so much to reconcile. One day in Beirut, construction foreman Yasser (Kame El Basha) – a Palestinian refugee – has water thrown at him by Toni (Adel Karam) – a Christian Lebanese. He does so through the broken gutter of his balcony. Yasser, offended, orders his team to forcibly repair the gutter against Toni’s wishes. Toni breaks it with a hammer and Yasser insults him in response: that insult will blow out of proportion, transforming a trivial argument into a nationwide fight between Christians and Palestinians.
Doueiri – who was Tarantino’s first assistant camera up until Jackie Brown – based this story on a real-life argument he had with a plumber he insulted – similarly to the film – when he was living in the pro-Palestinian side of Beirut. He worked on the script with his ex-wife, who was from the Christian side, while they were divorcing. The result is the tale of a local incident with universal resonance; the dispute turns into a full-on court trial that slowly becomes a plot device to show the Lebanese history and wars. The movie is mind-opening and it shows the difficulty some people have in accepting reconciliation and turning the page.
There should be more films like The Insult: superbly directed, educational and entertaining. It’s a bit exaggerated and at times sugar-coated but it reminds us of two very important things: apologising is not an act of weakness and no one – race, population or religion – has the monopoly on sufferance.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
The Insult doesn’t have a UK release date yet.
Watch the scene of the incident here: