File Review: ‘The Insult’ — an outstanding courtroom drama

A scene from the film. (The Insult trailer)
Updated 02 March 2018
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File Review: ‘The Insult’ — an outstanding courtroom drama

After watching “The Insult,” directed by Ziad Doueiri and co-written with Joelle Touma, I cannot recall the last time I watched such an outstanding film. From its pace and writing to the acting and cinematography, this courtroom drama is flawless.
Following a minor squabble between right-wing Christian Phalangist Toni (Adel Karam) and Palestinian refugee Yasser (Kamel El-Basha) over a broken drainpipe, egos begin to puff up. Yasser, who was fixing the pipe, utters the first — minor — insult, and his employer forces him to apologize so relations with residents remain cordial.
When Toni senses that the apology is half-hearted, he throws a deplorable insult at Yasser, who quickly realizes this is about much more than a drainpipe. Aggravated by an incendiary speech against Palestinians playing on repeat in the background of Toni’s garage, Yasser punches him, breaking a couple of his ribs, and gets sued for damages.
The case is quickly thrown out of court by the judge, who realizes what the conflict is really about. They are both released, but Toni refuses to let it go. With a speed neither man could foresee, what began as a silly argument escalates into a national conflict.
Karam and El-Basha deliver fantastic visceral performances, as do actresses Rita Hayek and Christine Choueiri, who play their wives. Diamand Bou Habib, who portrays Yasser’s impassioned lawyer, is wonderful against Toni’s witty and pugnacious lawyer, played by the brilliant Camille Salameh, whose character uses the case as a second chance to win the “Christian cause” he had lost in court as a younger man. He provides much-needed comic relief, lightening the mood when the intensity is at its highest.
“The Insult” shows how prejudices created by the wounds of Lebanon’s civil war escalate seamlessly into a political conflict. It is a conflict only the protagonists can solve, one reluctant to make peace with his past, the other with a past and present he is still very much living.
The conflict ensnares not only supporters of the protagonists but also their wives, who try to bring out their humane side. A further twist reveals a generational conflict — the elder, who still lives the war vividly, and the younger, who wants to move on from a conflict he empathizes with but did not endure.
This film is mostly about internal conflict within characters manifesting externally, about making peace with oneself as well as with the country’s history, about finally removing the band aid and treating the damage of war so they can heal.
Toni’s complex character begins to show hints of humanity, and as his lawyer dredges up his past, we discover the personal tragedy that led to his animus toward Palestinians. But what about what Yasser has been through? He fled his country to Jordan, then had to settle in Lebanon in a refugee camp.
The film does not try to judge whose conflict is worst; no one can judge how a personal experience can affect someone. It is up to the characters themselves to come to terms with it. Ultimately, Yasser is older and more enlightened than Toni. Yasser has the wisdom we feel Toni begins to acquire by the end of the film.
As one of the many former warlords declares during a TV interview aimed at Toni, it is time for those wounds to heal. The protagonists’ humanity prevails in the end, illustrated by two powerfully touching scenes. Perhaps this can be used as a lesson for us now and in the future.
This is the first time a Lebanese film has been nominated for an Oscar, and it deserves all the success it is receiving internationally. Hopefully, it will pave the way for many more Lebanese films.

• Tala Ramadan is a Lebanese screenwriter and producer.


Nicole Scherzinger proves she’s just like every other tourist with this iconic Dubai snap

Updated 25 March 2019
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Nicole Scherzinger proves she’s just like every other tourist with this iconic Dubai snap

  • The singer performed for the Abu Dhabi Special Olympics, where more than 7,500 athletes took part
  • Scherzinger's aunt has Down Syndrome

DUBAI: Dubai is one of the region’s most popular tourist hubs and there’s one photograph that eager visitors scramble to snap when they touch down in the city of gold — a shot of them standing in front of the iconic Burj Khalifa.

Visitor from the furthest reaches of the globe can always be seen striking a pose — or 20 — in front of the tallest building in the world before posting the coveted snap online.

Singer Nicole Scherzinger joined the legions of travelers who have posted similar shots on their social media feeds and took to Instagram this week with a collection of snaps of herself standing in front of a glittering Burj Khalifa at night.

The performer wore a black-and-white striped crop top with a matching tiered maxi skirt, complete with frilled layers.

She visited Dubai after performing in the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi’s closing concert.  

The games saw more than 7,500 athletes from 190 nations compete in 24 officially sanctioned Olympic-style sports geared toward athletes with intellectual disabilities.

“Tonight, I got to go out into the stadium and hang amongst some of the amazing athletes that competed at the @worldgamesad this week. Over 7000 phenomenal humans with intellectual disabilities (or as I call them, super abilities)… came together in Abu Dhabi to battle it out through sports. My love and admiration of this organization is almost selfish — the joy and inspiration spending time with them brings me restores my faith in humanity time and time again. Athletes, you are of such determination, power, SUPERPOWERS, strength, grace, humility and pure LOVE! Congratulations to all of the incredible talent that competed and celebrated with us tonight,” the star posted on Instagram after her show.

According to the organizers, singer and songwriter Scherzinger has a personal connection with the Special Olympics due to her close relationship with her aunt, who has Down syndrome.

“She is such a positive influence and inspiration for me,” Scherzinger told the UK’s Metro newspaper in 2013. “People get caught up in everyday little problems and in their own vanity and Keziah is always happy and there to give you love and a hug no matter what. She’s a big walking ball of love – she inspires me to be happy, help others and be more grateful.”