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.


Six charitable celebrities fighting for humanitarian causes

Updated 18 June 2018
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Six charitable celebrities fighting for humanitarian causes

DUBAI: On Sunday, Hollywood heavyweight Angelina Jolie visited Iraq in the latest of a long line of humanitarian missions, but she isn’t the only celebrity with a cause.

Angelina Jolie

The Hollywood star this week called for a larger focus on conflict prevention rather than responding to its repercussions, during a visit to Iraq’s Domiz refugee camp with the UN refugee agency.
The visit marked Jolie’s 61st mission — and fifth to Iraq — with the UN refugee agency since 2001.

"I met parents whose 17-year-old daughter lost her legs in a mortar-strike. When they carried her to get medical treatment they were turned away, and she bled to death. It is deeply upsetting that people who have endured unparalleled brutality have so little as they try, somehow, to rebuild the lives they once had.” . UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie met Mohamed and his family in West Mosul's Old City, Iraq, on June 16, 2018. . During the offensive to retake the city from ISIS, Mohamed’s house was hit by an airstrike killing his 17 year-old daughter and destroying most of the home. Together with his three surviving children and his wife, Mohamed fled to the home of a family friend, where they have been living ever since. However the host family can no longer support them and Mohamed may have to bring his family back to live in the ruins of their home. . The visit marked Angelina Jolie’s 61st mission – and her fifth visit to Iraq – with the UN Refugee Agency since 2001. She arrived in the city on the second day of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan. . Read her full statement and see more on Angelina Jolie's visit today on our Facebook page (Facebook.com/UNHCR) . Photo Credit - UNHCR / @andrewmcconnellphoto . #Mosul #Iraq #AngelinaJolie #UNHCR #eid #refugees #withrefugees #hope #eidalfitr #ramadan

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Amber Heard

In April, the actress said that a meeting with Syrian refugees and foreign medical volunteers left an “an indelible mark” on her soul.
Heard, 31, spent a week in Jordan as part of a delegation of the Syrian American Medical Society, visiting the kingdom’s largest camp for Syrian refugees and rehabilitation centers for those wounded in Syria’s seven-year-old civil war.

Shakira

She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and supports foundations dedicated to development advocacy in Colombia and Latin America. She founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation when she was 18-years-old. The organization has six open-door schools providing access to education for underprivileged children in Colombia.

Priyanka Chopra

The UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador served as a National Goodwill Ambassador to India for ten years and founded a charity in the country — The Priyanka Chopra Foundation for Health and Education — to promote the education of girls and children in India.

I’m in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh today for a field visit with UNICEF, to one of the largest refugee camps in the world. In the second half of 2017, the world saw horrific images of ethnic cleansing from the Rakhine State of Myanmar(Burma). This violence drove nearly 700,000 Rohingya across the border into Bangladesh - 60% are children! Many months later they are still highly vulnerable, living in overcrowded camps with no idea when or where they will ever belong...even worse, when they will get their next meal. AND...as they finally start to settle and feel a sense of safety, monsoon season looms...threatening to destroy all that they’ve built so far. This is an entire generation of children that have no future in sight. Through their smiles I could see the vacancy in their eyes. These children are at the forefront of this humanitarian crisis, and they desperately need our help. The world needs to care. We need to care. These kids are our future. Pls Lend your support at www.supportunicef.org #ChildrenUprooted @unicef @unicefbangladesh Credit: @briansokol @hhhtravels

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Katy Perry

In 2013, Katy was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has traveled the world, from Vietnam to Madagascar, to raise awareness about the world’s most vulnerable children. In 2016, she received UNICEF’s Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award in recognition of her work with underprivileged children.

George Clooney

The Hollywood star has worked to address the suffering in the Darfur region of Sudan and even founded the Not On Our Watch organization, which raises awareness on the issue. The charity has reportedly raised millions of dollars, with much of the funding going through the World Food Program.