The Insult (2017) L’insulte

Cast includes: Adel Karam (Caramel), Kamel El Basha (Solomon’s Stone), Rita Hayek (A Scent of Lebanon)
Writer/Director: Ziad Doueiri (The Attack, West Beirut)
Genre: Drama (112 minutes) Arabic with subtitles


It isn’t even summer but very pregnant Shirine Hanna is suffering greatly from the heat. When her husband, Tony, returns from the rally, she wants to talk to him about moving. Surly, this is not the best place to bring up a baby. Beirut is crowded and expensive… their little apartment, like most in the neighborhood, has all sorts of jerry-rigged features that technically aren’t legal. Shirine suggest moving to Damour… they could find something larger and quieter. “I’m fine here,” says Tony. Moving to Damour is out of the question, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. Anyway, the garage where Tony works is just down the street… near enough to come home on breaks during the day. As Tony waters plants on his balcony, the runoff rains down on Yasser Salameh, the foreman of a work crew. “Use the other side of the street,” shouts Tony when Yasser complains. Yasser decides to take matters into his own hands… using supplies he has on hand, he quickly makes a repair to the drainpipe, fixing the problem. Tony smashes the new pipe, shouting, “This is my balcony… my house.” Insults are exchanged.

Yasser’s boss tries to deescalate the tension, but that only makes Tony angrier. Tony demands an apology. The boss convinces Yasser to go over to the garage and apologize… even though it seems as if the apology should go the other way. Tensions in Beirut have been running high, especially with all the Palestinians at the St. Eli refugee camp. Christians resent having to have them there. Tony is especially angry… “I wish Ariel Sharon had taken you all out,” he screams at Yasser. With that, Yasser gives Tony a swift fist to the gut… breaking two ribs. One thing leads to another, everything escalates and the dispute ends up in court… with media coverage inspiring nationwide outrage in the court of public opinion.

With cries of “Lock him up,” it might seem as if issues in highly partisan Lebanon aren’t much different from those in the US. To be sure, there is similarity, however, there are many additional complications, which become apparent as the story unfolds. The Insult is an excellent film, from the plot development, to acting and production quality. As most of us may be unfamiliar with the history of Lebanon, some of the cultural touch points will be new information for us. And since the film was made primarily for local audiences, the filmmakers don’t spoon-feed us background information. But that said, American audiences will understand enough to appreciate this film. Writer Director Ziad Doueiri is known for taking on complex social issues and showing us all sides. Even though we think we know why people do what they do… even though we think we know whose right… things may look different when the layers are pealed back.

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

A perceived insult leads to a real insult, and it spirals out of control

Popcorn Profile

Rated: R (Violence)
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Art House
Mood: Sober
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely Varnished Realism 
Nutshell: Dueling insults
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking

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