“Words change everything.”
This is the phrase displayed on The Insult’s film poster, and you don’t have to watch too far into the film to understand why.
Nominated for an Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film, The Insult is a Lebanese political drama directed by Ziad Doueiri. It centres on a seemingly trivial residential dispute between Tony, an enthusiastic member of the Lebanese Christian party, and Yasser, a Palestinian refugee. The conflict quickly builds momentum, eventuating in a high-profile court case. It soon becomes clear that their hatred for one another is fuelled by a deep-rooted political divide between the two groups these men represent.
My knowledge of international politics isn’t as strong as I’d like it to be, so I was a little wary going into this film. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the context of this political drama—particularly Lebanon’s persistently dysfunctional relationship with the Palestinian refugees that fled to their country following the 1948 Palestine war.
So, while my viewing may have been enhanced by a deeper appreciation of the film’s context, I managed to understand quite a lot of the plot.
Regardless, this may be one of the most moving films I’ve watched this year. The Insultgoes beyond exploring the political climate of Lebanon and delves into universal themes like humankind’s continual pursuit of justice.
Tony and Yasser are both wounded by events in their past and they allow these wounds to justify the pain they inflict on one another. There is no doubt that each of these men has suffered in his own way and both have strong cases that vindicate their small acts of violence. But their fight for closure blinds them from seeing each other’s pain, creating a self-fulfilling cycle of justice-motivated violence.
However, at one point is it poignantly stated that: “No one has a monopoly on suffering”. It is only when the characters can see beyond their own wounds and sympathises with the atrocities that have been inflicted on the other that this cycle breaks.
The Insult is a truly thrilling watch, particularly for those of you who enjoy a good court case drama. Furthermore, the outstanding acting of the two leads: Adel Karam and Kamel El Basha, brings a tangible humanity to their characters.
If you’re looking to broaden your viewing habits and branch out into international films, I highly recommended adding The Insult to your list.
The Insult begins screening at Luna Cinemas from August 30.