The Insult ('L'insulte')

DRAMA; 1hr 52min (Lebanese with subtitles)

STARRING: Adel Karam, Kamel El Basha

Mexican standoff: Karam (left) and El Basha

From their first encounter, hostile mechanic Tony and older, closed-off construction foreman Yasser (an ideally matched Karam and El Basha) are an impossible force and an immovable object. Tony is a Lebanese Christian, Yasser a Palestinian refugee and this is today’s Beirut, still smarting from the civil war that officially ended 28 years ago. 


After the two men come to verbal and physical blows over a faulty guttering, their locked horns harden into a race-based battle of wills. Tony sues for damages after Yasser slugs him one and refuses to apologise for his name-calling. The initial hearing isn’t conclusive, and as slurs compound slurs and matters escalate into a literal question of life and death, the media-spotlit case goes before the Court of Appeal. With the nation agog and mass tempers at snapping point, ethical and historical lines grow tangled and crossed.


In the end, after the rhetoric and the riots that spin insanely from the crucible of this domestic dispute, director Ziad Doueiri’s intelligently probing screenplay (inspired by an altercation he had with his plumber) homes in on the universal human need to be heard and to heal. Violence is never a means to those ends: both the wary, distrustful Yasser and the livid Tony, his anger shaped by childhood trauma, have every reason to understand that. It’s only when Tony comes to terms with who he is, and why, that he will finally know a peace of mind with no need for presumed degrees of innocence or guilt.