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The film Insult shows us how a seemingly trivial personal dispute between two men can very easily explode, and turn into a political crisis that consumes an entire country. At the same time, the film also reveals how national social issues and political fault lines enter every aspect of citizens’ daily lives.

1. Would you say then that the political is always personal, and the personal is always political?

Lebanon’s bloody sectarian civil war officially ended in 1990, decades before our story takes place.

2. In what ways is the “past” never really a past but has an on-going effect also years later? Does the film offer a way to “get over” the past in order to turn a new page? Does the attempt to litigate past traumas in court help or hinder personal and/or collective healing, if that is even possible and/or desirable?

The film seems to suggest that we should sympathize and identify more with Yasser, the Palestinian refugee, than with Tony, who recites Bachir Gemayel’s bigoted and racist statement about Palestinians. Yet the director seems to balance the insult suffered by Yasser with Tony’s past trauma, a trauma that still haunts him.

3. Why create this apparent balance between the two traumas? In what way does each man’s past justify or excuse their actions, if it does? Is this a “fake” symmetry? Is there ever a symmetry? The film is primarily focused on two men.

4. Do you think that were the film to revolve around two women protagonist, the interaction, the conflict, and relationship might have been different? What role does gender play in this film? Can you think about a similar film in the US? What might this movie be like, if it were set in the United States rather than in the Middle East? In the U.S., the First Amendment is held in very high regard, and an “insult” like the one in the film (“I wish Ariel Sharon wiped you all out”) would probably be considered protected speech.

5. Do you think such speech should be protected? Would you support banning and criminalizing such “hate-speech”?

What was your reaction to this angry statement: “I wish (Ariel) Sharon had wiped you out?”

6. Why doesn’t The Insult come down on either side of the conflict by the end?

Reference https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/10/movies/the-insult-review-lebanon.html

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