'The Insult' makes for a frightened yet compassionate audience
"The Insult" is a powerful examination of racial hatred, propagated by fear mongers. The film takes place in Beirut but reminds us how prevalent the problem is worldwide.
When a Palestinian contractor, Yasser (Kamel El Basha), takes it upon himself to repair the gutter of a Lebanese apartment owner, Toni (Adel Karam), without his permission, all hell breaks loose. Words lead to blows and an eventual court case incites riots.
Director Ziad Doueiri once again lends vast insight into the Middle East's racial tensions. In "The Attack" (2012) the violence was also constantly simmering just beneath the surface in Tel Aviv between Arabs and Israelis ... different turf, same hatred. There's always a backstory as to how it began with his main characters but he also points out how infectious it can become to the masses. In addition, he emphasizes the immense power of words. In "The Insult" a mere two words set off a national crisis. Sadly, the two main characters who set it in motion are both basically good, hard-working men who love their families. And Doueiri wisely explores that common bond often which provides a modicum of hope for the future.
Adel Karam and Kamel El Basha play off one another perfectly. As their characters evolve, we're frightened, sympathetic and overwhelmed. Both actors' range of emotions are abundant and heartfelt. They make it easy to take sides equally for Yasser and Toni.
"The Insult" is about intolerance, propaganda, religion and politics. Some of the angry phrases tossed about are all too familiar. "Witch hunt" and "Lock him up" are not lost on those who pay attention. We have only to look in our own backyards to see what Doueiri is portraying in his extremely thought provoking film. In the end we're left to ponder the fact that two simple words would have prevented the raging chaos which ensued: "I'm sorry."