Starring Adel Karam, Kamel El Basha, Camille Salameh, Diamand Bou Abboud, Christine Choueiri
During awards season, I seem to always get to the foreign films last, which is often-times my loss. This year most of the submissions seem to focus on the political. The plots also seem distant and unrelated to problems in America. The Insult is a notable exception. It is a story of ethnic tensions, not unlike recent events in our country. Two Arab men, one Christian and one Muslim, both equally stubborn, ignite an entire country in firestorm of ethnic strife. The social relevance aside, The Insult has some of the most impressive performances in this year’s bunch. Writer/director Ziad Doueiri educates the audience in so many different ways, while simultaneously delivering an engrossing political thriller.
The conflict of culture and ethnic tensions begins when a contract worker insults a local Beruit resident, while trying to fix a public drain. The drain isn’t the issue, it’s that Yasser Abdallah Salameh (Basha) is a Palestinian refugee, which Christian auto mechanic, Tony Hanna (Karam). resents. Hanna demands an apology from the worker, who was only doing his job, but when Salameh comes to apologize, Hanna insults the man to the point of violence. Both end up in court, with neither willing to explain the entire circumstance, and war breaks out both in court and on the streets. Strong evidence to support each side is unearthed, and another battle between lawyers, create the most sensational trial the country has witnessed in modern times.
The war that rages in court is one of the most entertaining and compelling proceedings I’ve seen captured on film in sometime.
Doueiri does an excellent job at bringing foreign eyes into the drama, crafting the story where the audience can easily follow the court proceedings that only slightly differ from the American justice system. While the story might be about two equally stubborn males, The Insult is full of intelligent women. Both wives offer common sense counsel that goes unheeded by the husbands due to their foolish pride. Abboud as Yasser’s lawyer is brilliant, while the lead female judge is a powerhouse. The war that rages in court is one of the most entertaining and compelling proceedings I’ve seen captured on film in sometime. There is rarely a moment where the outcome becomes clear.
The Insult is far more than a courtroom drama, the musical score encircles you from the beginning, and is among this year’s very best. Tommaso Fiorilli’s cinematography captures a perspective with his drone like cutaways that give you a real sense of place. When one of the men revisits his past in the third act, the score and cinematography come together in a stunning synergy that further electrifies the emotional depth of the movie. The Insult isn’t a movie with some mutual win or loss at the end, but this screenplay goes deep into the country’s civil war history and each day in court provides another element for the judge (and the audience) to weigh in on. “We don’t solve this by pretending we love each other”.
A rock solid, riveting foreign film with wide appeal potential.