A Lebanese movie called THE INSULT is one of the five Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Film. It was a good choice.
An angry encounter between two men—a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee living in Beirut in 201—stirs up deep seated rage in both mostly because of the suffering they each experienced during the civil war in Lebanon that killed over 120,000 people between 1975 to 1990.
THE INSULT focuses on a legal battle between these two angry, stubborn antagonists who are essentially decent men with more in common than either one of them suspects.
(Water pours directly from a drainpipe on a lanai onto a construction foreman on the street below.)
The movie begins with their confrontation.
Palestinian foreman: There’s a problem with your gutter. We need to look at it.
Lebanese Christian: What kind of problem?
Foreman: People are getting sprayed.
Christian: Use the other side of the street. (closes door)
Clearly Tony, the apartment dweller, has a chip on his shoulder, and Yasser, a construction foreman, has a right to correct the problem.
But Tony escalates their conflict by destroying the new drainpipe, and Yasser curses at him.
Now Tony demands an apology which Yasser refuses to give.
Both men are full of righteous indignation. A week later, when Yasser’s employer finally convinces him to make an apology, Tony insults Yassertrack , and Yasser punches him out, breaking two of Tony’s ribs.
Tony files a lawsuit against Yasser and things go from bad to worse.
At this point, both main characters are guilty of making trouble for themselves and their families, especially Tony whose wife is pregnant.
Wife: You let a stupid incident take hold of you….
Tony: I’m doing this for you, for the family.
Wife: You’re doing it for yourself. You’ll burn everything but not turn the page!
But Tony, the Christian, and Yasser, the Palestinian, are not just two stubborn, angry men. As the plot unfolds we learn that both belonged to families that years ago suffered in the civil war when Palestinian refugees and Lebanese Christians were killing each other.
Now news of this trial that’s supposed to settle the conflict between the two men has fired up old resentments in the public and the whole country is caught up in the tension.
THE INSULT is long and talky, but it’s also a well made film that shows how justifiable anger can prevent enemies from seeing each other as human which in turn makes lasting peace nearly impossible to achieve.
Terry Hunter, Hawaii News Now. firstname.lastname@example.org