“Of course, I was overjoyed. The first thing I did is I called my mom, because my mother actually was the legal consultant on the movie,” The Insult director Ziad Doueiri said recently, reflecting on his film’s nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. “When it happened, I started thinking about what we’ve been through—I did not look in the future. I looked back, actually, because we’d been through a little bit of a hard time with the authorities when the film was released.”
Based in an experience from Doueiri’s personal life, The Insult tells the story of a small, personal conflict between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee which grows and grows in its consequences, resulting in violence, national scrutiny and courtroom confrontation.
Seeing star Kamel El Basha win Best Actor at last year’s Venice Film Festival, the director was overjoyed—until he returned to Beirut, and was subjected to a military tribunal for charges related to his 2012 film The Attack. “It was a very anxious period because we were so close to not having the film released—like my previous film, The Attack, which was banned,” Doueiri told Deadline Senior Dominic Patten at a recent Awardsline screening. “I took it really, really hard.”
Recognizing that making films in the Middle East inevitably results in “certain sensitive points” within a “polarized” culture, Doueiri was pleased to see the military judge let him go, citing statutes of limitations. In retrospect, though, Doueiri believes events transpired in his favor. It was only through perfect timing that his film would go on to be shortlisted for an Academy Award, and subsequently receive a nomination. “Had I presented this film in 2016, I wouldn’t be sitting talking to you today. It just happens that the new government that arrived in 2017, run by Prime Minister Saad Hariri—who is actually a terrific guy—he lobbied against members of the government in order to release that film,” he explained. “So in Lebanon, there are stills forces that fight censorship. That’s what I want you to know.”
To hear more from Deadline’s conversation with The Insult director Ziad Doueiri—as he discusses his passion for the genre of the courtroom drama, and its roots in his personal life—click above.