A CITY DIVIDED
‘The Insult’ takes on taboos of Lebanon’s civil war
The 1990 peace accord that ended it never brought a reconciliation process.
Instead, Lebanon’s parliament issued a general amnesty absolving all parties of war crimes.
Opening old wounds
Almost 20 years later, The Insult carves out an ambitious goal: Opening old wounds to pave the way to a muchneeded, if belated, redemption.
The movie, set in the post-war era, centres around a legal dispute between Christian nationalist Tony, played by Lebanese actor and comedian Adel Karam, and Palestinian refugee Yasser, played by Basha.
A disagreement between the men over a water pipe snowballs into a court case and then into a violent, national crisis, opening up a Pandora’s box of old grievances, prejudices, and trauma.
The film has been praised by Lebanese critics for dealing frankly with the unresolved issues of the civil war.
“The movie opens a necessary window to look on the remnants of Lebanese memory that we are not allowed to go near, discuss, or ask questions about,” Lebanese movie critic Nadim Jarjoura said.
“The Insult also deals with a lot of other issues, including reconciliation with oneself. You cannot reconcile with the other without reconciling with yourself,” he added.
“You need to return to the past to leave it.”
The film contains sequences of forceful language and communal tension rarely depicted in Lebanese cinema.
“Sharon should have annihilated
‘Still at war’
Tony in turn finds himself assaulted with screams of “Zionist dog” during a court hearing between the men, evoking the still-controversial alliance that formed between some Christian factions and the Jewish state against Palestinians in Lebanon.
“There’s no side in the war that can say it, alone, was persecuted,” 54-yearold Doueiri told AFP.
“No single side can say it was the only one that was hurt. There will always be another side that has the right to say that the war spilt its blood, too.”
The Insult depicts the Lebanese as not yet having turned the page on the civil war, while their country is riven by new divisions including tensions related to the conflict in neighboring Syria and the issue of the arsenal of the powerful Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
When Tony’s lawyer asks if he would take up arms today, he replies, “We’re still at war.”
“I’m not Jesus Christ to turn the other cheek,” he says elsewhere in the film. “No, we are not all brothers.”
The film offers no easy answers, but a path to gradual reconciliation emerges between the men.
The screening ended with a heavy silence, with the audience sitting quietly as the titles scrolled.
But it provoked discussions, including between a father and son who were still locked in animated debate nearly an hour later.
“You can’t think like that, Dad, the civil war is over,” the teenager could be heard telling his white-haired father.
Producer Antoun Sehnaoui (left) and director Ziad Doueiri arrive at the Beirut Souks cinema for the premiere of movie The Insult, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday.