The Insult aka L’insulte, written and directed by Ziad Doueiri
The Insult is a very commendable, thought provoking, intense, complex film, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Motion Picture, in a year when, astonishingly, the winner of the Golden Globe in this category was not even included in the top five best foreign films: In the Fade.
On the other hand, it could be argued that The Insult was probably just as good as In the Fade- the similarities do not end there, both films, although in different contexts, deal with the issue of refugees, the hatred that some extremists fell for immigrants and foreigners in general.
Nevertheless, both these features pale to a certain extent pale in comparison with Nelyubov, The Square and Una Mujer Fantastica- the latter won a deserved Oscar in the category- with Frist They Killed My Father- directed by Angelina Jolie, as a Cambodian entry- and On Body and Soul coming on the same excellent level with the rest of the remarkable nominees.
The starts of the dispute is rather simple- it is The Insult that sparks a conflict of almost epic proportions, that after it sets two men against each other, escalates to the point where parts of the country are insulting, abusing and fighting with each other, although, Alhamdulillah, this is not part of the fierce, gruesome, terrible Lebanese civil war, which is mentioned in the motion picture.
Tony Hanna is a Christian that listens to fiery speeches by politicians that attack the Palestinian- and one could say any other refugee, immigrant or foreigner that is ascribed the role of escape goat, the culprit responsible for all that is wrong in the country, lack of jobs, garbage uncollected, electricity shortcuts.
One day, he is watering his flower pots on his balcony- this is one early version, altered later on to admit that he actually knew what he was doing- when a group of men was talking in the vicinity and the water fell on their head, causing the foreman Yasser Abdallah Salameh to get angry at the dirt pouring on him.
He is the leader of a big team of construction workers and he sends a few to climb and attach a tube to the drainage of the balcony, which is destroyed by the violent proprietor with a hammer, resulting in the cause celebre: The Insult, the supervisor calling the watering man an ass hole.
Tony Hanna takes this to the boss of the guilty party and he wants to hear an apology, which is not forthcoming, not in the way expected, even if the boss comes to the apartment with flowers and chocolates and tries to explain that it is more difficult for some men to ask forgiveness, while at the same time nudging his subordinate to go and ask for understanding and consider his delicate potion in the firm, from where he can be fired easily.
Indeed, many aspects are political and social in this excellent film, the owner of the construction firm is a deputy in Parliament, interested in getting votes- apart from the benefits from business- and he does not want the Palestinian to work for him, especially given his penchant for more expensive, but better solutions – he sees German machinery as reliable and Chinese makes as shit.
After much effort of persuasion from the boss and his wife, the Palestinian refugee Yasser is walking to the garage where Tony is a mechanic, with the apparent intention of apologizing, but the insulted man starts his own abusive speech with you are no good and Shamir (Israeli Prime Minister in the past) may have killed you all- by you, meaning the Palestinian he so loathes.
Instead of excuses, the racist man receives a punch in the stomach and he has two broken ribs, for which he takes his opponent to court, where the judge is not happy with the case pushed by the accuser and so he decides in favor of the defendant, given the circumstances, the position of the arrogant Yasser, who will not stop here, with this “corrupt judge”.
The case and more importantly, the film, are interesting, fascinating even from one point on, as it offers complex characters, none of them is right or wrong, they both make mistakes, have inner hatreds and scores to settle, past grievances and unsolved issues, traumas that resurface with violence, resulting in accusations, insults and fights- at another point, the situation is reversed and the victim punches the former attacker.
A nadir is reached when Tony collapses at work – it is later admitted that he was actually making a huge effort carrying a heavy battery, a forbidden act in his condition- and after this new trauma, his wife gives premature birth to a baby girl that is kept alive by technology, her life hanging by a thread and this all becomes a media circus and a reason for different factions to confront each other.
In court, the accusation has a very good lawyer- who is more than biased against the Palestinians and this is the main reason why he takes the case- while the defense has another expert, who happens to be the daughter of the former lawyer and brings forward some facts, one of them is the medical history of the wife, who has had a couple of abortions which expose her to accidents like the one she has just had.
But the main fight is political and historical, for it is demonstrated in court that Tony Hanna comes from a village only twenty kilometers away from Beirut- and he has never visited since childhood- where atrocities took place in the past, perpetrated by Palestinians, who have never paid for this barbarity, which have left the Christian with an intense disgust for Palestinians.
It is not a complete blind spot, the hatred is not total and the disability can be cured, for we see the accuser in one interesting scene, as they come out of the office of the president of Lebanon, who has tried to make peace, emphasizing for both parties the need for reconciliation, without which a civil war may erupt again, the car of the Palestinian would not start.
The Lebanese Christian has an older BMW that he drives away, looking in the mirror at the old Volvo that would not start, returns and has the opponent back in the car- he was looking helpless under the hood- makes a few cable connections and the vehicle is ready to move- this action might be interpreted as just the urge of the mechanic to fix an engine when there is trouble, but it is probably indicative of the fact that there is a chance for peace there and elsewhere.
The Insult invites audiences to think- which in the age of Transformers and The fast and The Furious 9, is that the latest installment?- is a big achievement, the themes are as important as possible- racism, discrimination, refugees and their plight, the horrors of war, civil or otherwise, making peace…
The Four Sublime States: Loving kindness, compassion, joy and Equanimity