The Insult is one of the five nominated films for Best Foreign Language film this year and is clearly a frontrunner. The Lebanon set film is a powerful exploration of two sides of a racial divide disguised as a courtroom drama. It is the kind of film that wins awards and thanks to Ziad Doueiri's strong direction, it probably deserves to.
The film centers on a small dispute that quickly escalates to represent the divide in Lebanon between Palestinians and Lebanese Catholics. Yasser Salameh (Kamel El Basha) is just doing his job when he notices the gutter of Toni Hanna (Adel Karam) is not up to code. He begins to fix it when Toni destroys it and flies into a rage. What should be a simple fix turns quickly into an argument because of the two men's religious and ethnic differences. One man insults the other with words. Words turn into a physical assault and soon the men are involved in a court case that escalates into a race war.
As the Toni and Yasser get swept up in the court case, it becomes clear that the case is being used for a political upset. The small squabble over a gutter becomes a powerful symbol of the civil unrest and bigotry in Lebanon. The two men almost become symbols rather than individuals until personal memories are brought into use in the case and we see the scarring costs of such hatred and how neither man involved is innocent.
Joelle Touma's screenplay is a bit heavy-handed at times and there is a familiarity to the progression of the film. However, the details of the story are powerful and fresh. They provide a view into a nation not so unlike America. The film successfully blurs any allegiance you might take with one of the men involved. The film wisely traces the power of words and how they can escalate into physical actions and ignite wars.
The Insult is a powerful film. The final act drives a hard-hitting point about hypocrisy. Even the noblest of acting men can be wrong when everything driving the enemy is brought to light. The film reflects things in Lebanon but it also feels close to home. It feels like a film our nation needs as much as the country it comes from.