In theaters now, Ziad Doueiri’s Oscar-nominated The Insult asks the important question about what it means to be right in our politically-driven, global society.
Throughout the world, so many cultures struggle to co-exist. Perhaps their differences are ideological, perhaps they are theological. They might even be economical. Yet, it remains that we are, all of us humans. We have the same desires and ambitions; we struggle. We bleed, we cry; we largely keep to ourselves. And, yet, the very thing that divides us, also has the power to bring us together: politics. At the very heart of every divide is a difference of opinion. Our own values guide our sense of right and wrong. Somewhere along the line, we forgot what it means to have an opinion and to make it known without fear of retribution.
Ziad Doueiri’s Oscar – nominated film, “The Insult” is such a film. Set in Lebanon, Tony Hannah (Adel Karam) lives his life on his own terms. He is a reputable business person, he has a wife and they are expecting soon. Tony understands the way of his world and his wife, Shirine’s (Rita Hayek) world. When their life is interrupted by the actions of Yasser Salameh (Kamel El Basha), an insult is thrown and honor must be satisfied, resulting in a legal courtroom drama, attracting national attention.
The script by Mr. Doueiri and Joelle Touma presents a very gripping legal battle, very much like a Aaron Sorkin drama would play out. It pits two different ideologies, that of a Lebanese Christian and that of a Palestinian refugee, against one another and threatens to tear apart a country riddled with civil strife. The story asks the question “what is right,” from many different angles and the unfolding drama plays into all of these angles exceptionally well.
Tony is defended by Wajdi Wehbe (Camille Salameh), a well-known defender. His courtroom theatrics reminded me of a more serious and dramatic Vincent Gambini, not because he was trying to be a clown, but because of his passion, his humility and, ultimately, his own stubbornness. Yasser is defended by Nadine (Diamon Bou Abboud). She has as much passion and zeal for defending her client. Being a younger lawyer, she had much to prove and her uphill climb to present evidence towards Yasser’s personality and characteristics added a nice context to the emotional layers.
The passion of the spectators, whose safety hangs in the balance, was palpable. In including this aspect of the trial, Mr. Doueiri offers dramatic insight into a country and a world that most American audiences would only be familiar with from CNN. The inclusion of modern, digital journalism in the form of social media offers just the right punch to bringing the story around full-circle.
That leads me to one of my biggest misgivings about the film. Both men are better people as a result of their story. However, because there were so many angles, the revelation in the third act took me out of everyone’s story. It’s not that the revelation was unnecessary. In fact, it explains an earlier part of the film and helps to shed light on what divided the country. It raises a theme that we often forget in our opinionated and faceless society – we are all refugees in some way or form. But it also miscalculates the accountability of the story.
In a limited theatrical release starting Friday, February 2, “The Insult” is a very strong indictment of humanity. We should all be so lucky that we have a movie to help us look at ourselves and ask the question, “What does it mean to be right?” The answer might just surprise you.
The Insult has been rated R by the MPAA.