Lebanese film “The Insult” became the country’s first to be nominated for an Oscar as it explores post-civil war relations between Lebanese and Palestinians, a conflict that continues to haunt the country decades after the end of the war.
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 Palestinian actor Kamel El Basha.
A disagreement between the men over a water pipe escalates into a court case and then into a violent, national crisis, opening up a Pandora's box of old grievances, prejudices, and trauma.
Meanwhile the film’s director Ziad Doueiri was detained in Lebanon last year as he came to the country for the movie’s premier. He was arrested over filming parts of his previous movie “The Attack” in Israel in 2012, because visiting Israel, “an enemy terrority”, is prohibited under Lebanese law as the two countries remain at war.
He was released a day later without charges after activists called his arrest an infringement on free speech. He had used his French passport to enter Israel.
The film tackles one of the most sensitive issues concerning Lebanon’s 15-year civil war which many believe started over tensions between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and right-wing Christians.
In late 1960s Yasser Arafat and the PLO began operating from Beirut, angering many on the right in the country. The conflict between the two developed into a full-blown civil war in mid 1970s involving different factions in the country, Israel, Syria, the United States and some European countries.
The war officially lasted until 1990, a period that saw the Israeli occupation of the south of Lebanon in 1982, which ended in 2006 as part of years-long struggle by the Shitte resistance movement Hezbollah.
Israel entered the country in order to attack the PLO and was activily supporting the Christian right-wing militias in Lebanon. Several massacres, including the most well-known and brutal one Sabra and Shatila, were carried out by the militias against Palestinian refugees with the tactical support of Israeli forces. At least 800 civilians were killed in Sabra and Shatila.
"The Lebanese civil war haunted me all the way to Los Angeles," Doueiri, who fled war-ravaged Beirut in 1983, told AFP last September when The Insult premiered in Lebanon. "The division between east and west Beirut stayed with me even though the war ended, the checkpoints reopened, and the capital was reunited."
The film has been well-received internationally with a 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a go-to website for film reviews. Last year, it received an award at the Venice Film Festival.
But it has also been criticized by some who say it seemed sympathetic to the character from right-wing Christian community, which has been blamed for major atrocities in the country during the war.
The end of the civil war saw a total amnesty absolving all factions and their members from war crimes. Many leaders who have been accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes have worked as government officials.