The Insult

Nominated for the 2018 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, The Insult is a riveting and emotionally evocative Lebanese drama about the complicated nature of the Middle Eastern debate over the Palestinians, particularly those living as refugees in neighboring countries such as Lebanon. The plot revolves around a seemingly trivial argument between a Lebanese Christian nationalist and a Palestinian refugee living in Beirut that rapidly escalates into a nasty legal fight resulting in mass demonstrations across Lebanon. The Christian nationalist Tony is upset when the Palestinian construction foreman Yasser attempts to repair Tony’s illegal drainage pipe after which Yasser uses profanity to insult Tony. Coming from different backgrounds in which both were victimized by religious and political hatred in both Lebanon and Israel, the two men never back down and Tony takes Yasser to court for Yasser not apologizing for the insult and assaulting Tony after he makes inflammatory remarks about Palestinians. Eventually, it becomes a sensationalized court case between two stubborn individuals and the issues being fought over spark outrage among the many different factions in Lebanon who either sympathize with the Palestinian cause or consider the Palestinian refugees a drain on Lebanese society. The filmmaker does an excellent job of developing a gripping courtroom drama that becomes even more intriguing after we learn that the powerful right-wing lawyer representing Tony is actually the father of the more liberal female lawyer representing Yasser. Throughout the course of the story, we also witness that the personal lives of the men and their loved ones are adversely affected by the drawn-out dispute, especially Tony’s wife who has a complicated pregnancy. The real power of the film is that it vividly represents the real animosity between certain religious and ethnic groups in the Middle East and how small matters can reveal complicated issues of pride and victimization. Overall, I found it to be a terrific movie with powerful performances that somehow expounds upon a relatively small argument to delve into the central matters surrounding the still heated Palestinian conflict.

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