Nearly three decades after it ended, Lebanon’s civil war returned to haunt Beirut this week at a screening of the film The Insult, which forcefully explores the taboos of the conflict.
The movie opened to rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival, earning accolades for its French-Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri and a Volpi Cup for Palestinian actor Kamel El Basha. The advance screening on Tuesday was overshadowed somewhat by Doueiri’s brief detention for filming in 2012 in Israel despite Lebanese legislation banning citizens from visiting the Jewish state.
But viewers still packed multiple halls on Tuesday night to watch the film at a cinema in central Beirut, which was ravaged by the bitter 1975-1990 war that divided Lebanon’s capital. “The Lebanese civil war haunted me all the way to Los Angeles,” Doueiri, who fled war-ravaged Beirut in 1983, said.
The Insult is Doueiri’s second movie about the civil war, after his 1998 film on teenage life in the battle-torn capital, “West Beirut”.The conflict erupted in 1975 between Lebanese Christians and armed Palestinian factions and eventually drew in Syria, Israel, the United States, and other Western countries.
The 1990 peace accord that ended it never brought a reconciliation process.
Instead, Lebanon’s parliament issued a general amnesty absolving all parties of war crimes. The movie, set in the post-war era, centres around a legal dispute between Christian nationalist Tony, played by Lebanese actor and comedian Adel Karam, and Palestinian refugee Yasser, played by Basha.
A disagreement between the men over a water pipe snowballs into a court case and then into a violent, national crisis, opening up a Pandora’s box of old grievances, prejudices, and trauma. The film has been praised by Lebanese critics for dealing frankly with the unresolved issues of the civil war.
“The movie opens a window to look on the remnants of Lebanese memory that we are not allowed to go near, discuss, or ask questions about,” critic Nadim Jarjoura said. — AFP
Rita El Hage