The Insult (Arabic: قضية رقم ٢٣, romanized: Qadiyya raqm 23, lit. ‘Case No. 23’, French: L’insulte) is a 2017 Lebanese legal drama film directed by Ziad Doueiri and co-written by Doueiri and Joelle Touma. It was screened in the main competition section of the 74th Venice International Film Festival. At Venice, Kamel El Basha won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor. It was selected as the Lebanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for the Oscar at the 90th Academy Awards.
The film tells the story of two men: Tony George Hanna (Adel Karam), a Lebanese Christian mechanic, and Yasser Salameh (Kamel El Basha), a Palestinian foreman, who are embroiled in a court case which causes political upheaval in an already unstable country.
Tony Hanna is a Lebanese Christian and devoted member of the Christian Party, with a pregnant wife, Shirine. Not wanting workers near his property when Shirine is there, Tony discovers contractors modifying the gutter on his balcony. Tony smashes the gutter, to which the worker Yasser Abdallah Salameh calls Tony a “fucking prick”. Tony recognizes Yasser as a Palestinian refugee by his accent; he watches anti-Palestinian propaganda and wishes for all Palestinians to leave the country. Although the balcony was in violation of building codes and the workers were fixing it, Tony demands an apology for the “fucking prick” remark from the company. The employers bring Yasser to Tony’s garage to apologize in person; but when Tony states he wishes Israeli statesman Ariel Sharon had exterminated all Palestinians, Yasser punches him instead, breaking two ribs.
Tony launches a lawsuit against Yasser, representing himself. However, when neither Yasser nor Tony can bring themselves to repeat what Tony said to Yasser about Sharon, the judge dismisses the case for inconclusive evidence. Enraged, Tony shouts the judge is corrupt and biased, and is removed from the courtroom but vows to appeal. He later collapses, and Shirine helps pull him up, later giving birth. The child is placed on life support, allegedly due to contractions Shirine experienced when she pulled up her husband and emotional shock at Yasser’s assault. The case goes to retrial, with Yasser risking guilt of manslaughter if the child dies.
Wajdi Wehbe, a pro-Christian with memories of the Lebanese Civil War, becomes Tony’s new representative, while Wajdi’s own daughter, Nadine Wehbe, who has less memory of the war, takes Yasser’s case. This time, Tony’s comments about Sharon are placed before the court, with the argument that emotional distress provoked the assault; Shirine’s history of miscarriages is also revealed. The arguments in the courtroom inflame memories of the civil war, leading to clashes in the streets between Christians and Muslims. With Wajdi underlining the importance of Sharon, Tony finds himself accused of Zionism and begins receiving death threats. Wajdi also characterizes Tony’s comments as private and merely expressing a “wish”, arguing this is not libel but freedom of thought.
In background research, Wajdi is surprised to learn Tony was born in Damour in 1970 and left in January 1976, a refugee of the Damour massacre when the city fell to Muslim and left-wing militants with help from Palestine Liberation Organisation units. Tony had not disclosed this to his own representation, and breaks down when Wajdi plays documentary footage of the event in the courtroom. Yasser and Tony later meet, and when Yasser says Christian suffering in the civil war was minimal compared to the Palestinians’, Tony punches him and Yasser apologizes. Shirine and Tony’s child recovers. Back at court, the judges find Yasser not guilty of assault. The pair appear to have reconciled by the end, exchanging a smile before parting.
Adel Karam [nl] as Tony George Hanna
Kamel El Basha as Yasser Abdallah Salameh
Rita Hayek as Shirine Hanna
Camille Salameh as Wajdi Wehbe
Diamand Bou Abboud as Nadine Wehbe
Talal Jurdi as Talal
Christine Choueiri as Manal Salameh
Julia Kassar as Judge Colette Mansour
Rifaat Torbey as Samir Geagea
Carlos Chahine as Judge Chahine
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