As the title implies, this powerful and sweeping Lebanese film is based on a particular insult that occurs at the film’s outset, but the molehill expands to mountainous and even riotous proportions. On a larger scale, a minor scuffle and blow to stubborn pride between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian balloons into a study of the Middle Eastern culture of insult and barely contained anger. A favorite in the recent Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) program and one of five contenders for the Foreign Language Film Oscar, The Insult is the handiwork of writer/director Ziad Doueiri (who did camerawork on early Tarantino films before returning home to make films about his native Lebanon). At an SBIFF Q&A session, he explained that he wrote the screenplay with his wife, Joelle Touma, from an opposite cultural heritage: They often wrote pages from the “other” perspective as an exercise in understanding across borders and beliefs. The result is a beautifully crafted, engaging, shrewdly balanced tale disguised as a “courtroom drama,” a setting that allows for a broad flow and dialogue of ideas (such as “Nobody has a monopoly on suffering”) that moves far beyond the trivial insult that serves as kindling for simmering socio-ethnic rage.


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