Film Review: Inside Lebanon's First Oscar Nomination.

Author:Breger, Sarah

Two men fight over a broken gutter in need of repair. Words are spoken, a punch is thrown and eventually an insult is hurled that is so offensive it could ignite a war in a religiously fractured country. That's the premise of The Insult, a gripping new film from Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri, that proves once again that in the Middle East the personal is not just political--it's historical. In Beirut, Toni (Adel Karam), a Lebanese Christian car mechanic, is introduced as a gentle family man, so it is a surprise when he greets Yasser (Kamel El Basha) with so much hostility when the construction foreman appears at his door. Then we learn Yasser is a Palestinian Muslim who lives in a refugee camp and Toni listens to the historical speeches of Bachir Gemayel--the assassinated anti-Palestinian Christian leader--in his spare time. Their conflict escalates to courtrooms, media frenzies and eventually to riots in the streets. As the situation spirals beyond their control, it is a credit to the two actors that neither man comes across as foolish in his stubbornness but rather as individuals who have reached their breaking points after years of accumulated indignities.

"Like the Jews say, the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity," Toni tells Yasser patronizingly. And while Israel is not part of this film, in some ways it is everywhere--the...

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