A Lebanese director's new film opens old wounds

Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

"What is the use of opening this old file now, after the dangerous transformations that have struck and changed the aims and sides of the conflict?" wrote columnist Abdo Wazen in the London-based Al Hayat daily last fall. "This issue was closed years ago and is no longer important in the current period."

Lebanon of course has more urgent things to worry about: Arab Spring uprisings, Islamic State and millions of Syrian refugees.

But much of the controversy surrounding "The Insult" has less to do with the film than with the filmmaker and his 2012 movie "The Attack," about a Palestinian suicide bomber.

He visited Tel Aviv to shoot a number of scenes despite Lebanon banning its citizens from associating with Israelis or traveling to Israel.

The movie never played in Lebanon and was boycotted by the Arab League.

Doueiri continued to travel in and out of Lebanon, but last September, on his way back from the premiere of "The Insult" at the Venice Film Festival, he was detained at the international airport in Beirut. He appeared before a military court only to later be released without charge.


He had run afoul of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement, which seeks to hold Israel responsible for what it says are violations of Palestinian rights and international law.

It called for "The Insult" to be banned. Jordan and the seven Persian Gulf countries complied. So did the Palestinian Authority, which was particularly galling to Doueiri because it meant many Palestinians would not get to see the much-lauded performance of their compatriot Kamel El Basha.

But the Lebanese Censorship Bureau did not acquiesce, and "The Insult" became a hit there.

Its success was not evenly spread. Doueiri said that in Muslim-majority areas of Beirut, theaters showing the film "were rather empty," but in Christian-dominated areas they were "packed."


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