I don’t watch many Lebanese movies, but The Insult caught me by surprise: it’s a powerful and affecting film in every way.
Director Ziad Doueri takes a simple premise, an insult between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee, and showcases its catastrophic consequences as they ripple across the country. In a nation where the wounds of the past have yet to heal, The Insult really taps into what makes every citizen a ticking time bomb just waiting to implode. It’s heartbreaking, but depressingly accurate.
It could certainly be argued that the film becomes a bit too heavy-handed in its final stretch (some of the speeches can get a bit too preachy and repetitive), but the cast does a tremendous job of keeping it all afloat. Adel Karam does an impeccable job at playing Tony Hanna, a smug mechanic and the film’s protagonist (or is he the antagonist?). The film wisely never takes sides and illustrates both sides of the debate. Even more impressive is Kamel El Basha’s nuanced performance as Yasser the Palestinian refugee, and Camille Salameh’s turn as Adel’s sleazy lawyer. Both actors deliver fully-rounded and multi-dimensional performances. Finally, Rita Hayek doesn’t get too much screen-time as Tony’s wife, but does a stellar job with the material and injects their dynamic with some much-needed warmth and heart.
Most importantly, Doueiri does a terrific job of authentically bringing a complicated country to life (he has the experience, as his 1998 flick West Beirut is widely regarded as one of the finest Lebanese films). Having worked as a camera assistant on several Quentin Tarantino films (including Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs), Doueiri’s finesse and skill are on full display. This is a vibrant film with excellent cinematography and a poignant and emotional musical score. Moreover, amidst all the cynicism, it still manages to plant some seeds of hope and that’s an achievement in itself.
Featuring top-notch performances and an engrossing narrative, The Insult is an excellent film that’s a particular must-watch for all Lebanese.