The Insult (“L’Insulte”), by Ziad Doueiri
With The Insult, Ziad Doueiri has created a complex film that summons up the painful memories of the Lebanese civil war, without ever taking sides.
Between East and West
Raised in a politically active Lebanese family, Ziad Doueiri moved to the United States in the early 1980s to pursue his studies, where he went on to spend 18 years. After having worked on Quentin Tarantino’s first five films, he returned to Lebanon. There he directed his first film, West Beirut, in 1998. Through this film and those that followed (Lila Says (“Lila dit ça”) in 2004, The Attack (“ L'Attentat”) in 2012 and The Insult in 2017, the film-maker evoked his experience in a country weakened by war.
Daring to question not only the merits of his family’s political views but also the relations between Christians and Muslims, Ziad Doueiri has become one of the greatest Lebanese film-makers of his generation.
The burden of a heavy past
The Insult is the story of an everyday incident with massive consequences. In Beirut, a Lebanese Christian and Palestinian refugee are arguing. Words are exchanged, one refuses to apologise, the other utters an intolerable insult.The argument turns violent and the case is brought to court. This heated exchange, which might have remained an isolated incident, turns into a national saga that crystallises Lebanon’s wounds.
Ziad Doueiri discusses the tensions of a country which never experienced true reconciliation after its devastating civil war, and recalls something his father told him years earlier: “Wars begin with words”.
Inspired by a true story
The plot of The Insult is inspired by an episode in Doueiri’s life. In his case, the words were followed by apologies, but he then wondered: “What if it had happened differently? Could that kind of snowball effect happen in Lebanon?” For the film-maker and his wife, with whom he co-authored the film, the answer is clear, as the film demonstrates.
While Ziad Doueiri was raised in a pro-Palestinian family, his partner is from a pro-Israel, Christian background. To write the script, the couple switched roles, each defending the opposing side.
A director’s revenge
The Insult was lauded internationally: the film was not only number one at the box office during its release week in Lebanon in 2017, it was also nominated for the 2018 Oscars in the category of best foreign-language film. Actor Kamel El Basha received the best actor prize at the Venice International Film Festival in 2017.
This success was all the more satisfying for Ziad Doueiri as his previous film, The Attack, was boycotted in Lebanon and 21 Arab countries because it was filmed in Israel. When Doueiri was asked to apologize, he refused: “If you apologize as a film-maker, it means that you don’t respect your work.”
The Insult (“L'Insulte") 2017,by the Aide aux cinémas du monde fund in 2015.
This Institut français programme provides support to foreign film-makers for film projects co-produced with France, whether they be feature-length fiction, animated films or creative documentaries.