The Insult

Mar 26, 2018

An entertaining courtroom drama filled with ethnicity and humanity.

The Insult

Grade: A-

Director: Ziad Doueiri (The Attack)

Screenplay: Doueiri, Joelle Touma (The Attack)

Cast: Adel Karam (Caramel), Kamel El Basha (Love, Theft, and Other Entanglements)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 52 min

by John DeSando

“I wish Ariel Sharon wiped you all out” Tony (Adel Karam)

Tony, a Lebanese Christian, shouts this insult at Yassar, a Palestinian refugee, that, together with the epithets Yassar had called to him, prompts a court proceeding in diverse Beirut, creating a national interest and hatred that would foment.

The half million Palestinians in Beirut and the multiple sects of Christians are not going to be appeased by any court decision that doesn’t support their cause. Consequently writer/director  Ziad Doueiri and writer Joelle Touma, both responsible for the stunning The Attack (2012), craft a heavily figurative and entertaining courtroom drama that clearly and forcefully lays out the history and contemporary contempt of Lebanese and Palestinians. The proceedings also emphasize the humanity that underlies the conflict.

The two principals are very different men: Tony is a garage mechanic and owner, a hothead with a big chip on his shoulder about Palestinian incursions (no mention here about the currently millions of Syrian refugees); Yassar is an engineer, seemingly even tempered, who heads a team of workers charged with fixing buildings that need to be up to code.

Both men have reasons to hate each other in circumstances that require a careful treatment by the justices.  With the two men, there is no nuance or subtlety. With the court, empathy and rationality are required. Throughout, the filmmakers allow us to enjoy the legal jousting while gaining sympathy for both sides of the ethnic animus.

The dynamic Insult deserved every bit of its Oscar nomination for best foreign language film. While some might complain the treatment is simplistic and Tony too headstrong, it’s still powerful cinematic drama and respectful of the differences that make wars.

“Insults are the arguments employed by those who are in the wrong.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at