A Lebanese director's new film opens old wounds

Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

"When the Second World War ended, France and Germany started on a reconciliation process that has made them the foundation of Europe," Doueiri said. "Lebanon hasn't done that. The war was done, the page was turned and everything was shoved under the bed."

"There hasn't been a dialogue where people can vent, yell at each other. ... A quick fix can work initially to contain and stop the violence, but then you have to start doing therapy."

Doueiri speaks from experience. He's the son of secular Lebanese Muslims who were involved with Al Mourabitoun (The Sentinels), a socialist pan-Arabic movement that fought alongside the Palestinian Fatah faction against Lebanese Christian militias.

When Bachir Gemayel, the Christian militia leader who became president in 1982, was assassinated a few weeks after his election, "it was a big celebration for my family," Doueiri said. "I grew up all my life thinking this is what should happen to all of them."

In 1983, he left Beirut for Los Angeles to study cinema, but returned in 1998 to film "West Beirut," his first feature, a rumination on the civil war through the eyes of three adolescents -- two Muslim boys and a Christian girl.

Doueiri said he rediscovered Lebanon as a place where "the guy you used to consider the enemy is now working on your film."


And when he found himself three years ago insulting a Palestinian man in a fight over a leaky water pipe, telling him that the wartime prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, "should have erased you all," it was the kernel that developed into "The Insult."

"I used to believe in one narrative. I just now believe in two," he said. "So what I did in 'The Insult' is simply understand the side that I had fought against all my life.

"The script is a result of my examination of my past. I reconciled because I sat down and listened to the other's narrative. If I did it, I think it's probably possible for others to do it."

But many in Lebanon would rather not.


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