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That talk is taboo

Regissør: Ziad Doueiri

When Lebanese-born Ziad Doueiri embarked on his new film, he considered it very likely that the Lebanese authorities would ban the film because of its controversial content.  


The outspoken filmmaker Ziad Doueiri has never been afraid to be controversial. In his latest feature film insult he is based on a seemingly insignificant incident in which a few words from a Palestinian to a Christian in Lebanon are brought to justice. The case is also gaining a lot of attention in the media and the population, as it plunges into "an old wound that was never healed": bloody events during the civil war of the 70 century, and it still inflamed relations between Christians and Palestinians in the country.  

“When we wrote the script, we had no political or social message. We had a History – about a conflict between a Christian and a Palestinian. I would like to raise this to deal with more universal issues such as justice and dignity. The story could take place in Spain, Ireland, the former Yugoslavia or Latin America, ”says the director. 

Banned in Arab countries

New Time meets Ziad Doueiri in connection with Arab Film Days, where the premiere insult was the opening film. He wrote the script with his ex-wife Joelle Touma, who belongs to the Christian part of Lebanon's population. The director got the idea for the movie when he himself experienced a similar episode. 

"A silly incident that took place in Beirut a few years ago, when I argued in an argument with a Palestinian that Ariel Sharon should have exterminated them all. I was angry with the Palestinians for banning my previous movie, ”he says. Douiris movie The Attack from 2012 was banned in 22 Arab countries. 

"It is part of today's left, including in Europe, that acts in a fascist way – in the sense: If you do not fully follow their beliefs, you are considered to be against them. The attack against Attack came exclusively from the left wing, and mainly the BDS movement (global movement for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel, editor's note). That I filmed The Attack in Israel, was considered a crime of the worst kind. Instead of debating the film, the other Arabs convinced them to boycott it. The radicals on both the Israeli and the Arab side are not that different, ”Doueiri says. The same was tried with insult,  but succeeded only in Palestine and Jordan. 

Supported by the Prime Minister

"Lebanon has a bloody and very complex history. We have a political party that has more weapons than the state, ”Doueiri says, referring to Hezbollah – which is not specifically mentioned in the film. This is also not allowed under Lebanon's strict censorship rules, according to the filmmaker. 

"The Palestinians are not so innocent, they too have caused a lot of human suffering."

When he started insult, Doueiri considered it very likely that the Lebanese authorities would ban the film because of its controversial content. After a few months of discussion, however, Prime Minister Saad Hariri took the film in defense. Like Doueiro's debut filmWest Beirut it ended up being the country's official Oscar candidate in the Best Foreign Language Film category – and even nominated, as the first Lebanese film in history. 

"The film was a huge success in Lebanon. The Christians went in hordes to see it – while the Muslims boycotted it. It divided the country into two, "says the director, who emphasizes that he is not a Christian himself:" I have a Muslim background, with left-liberal parents. "

The power of the word

Doueiri is based in Paris, but has 14 years of experience in the American film industry – including as a camera operator for Quentin Tarantino. In Lebanon he must have been armed then insult should have premiere, due to threats from individuals. 

"However, the defense of the film was greater than the attack by the many who fought it," he says. 

- Could any of what you depict have happened in Lebanon of reality? 

“In all societies, a small, single event can have dramatic consequences. This has happened several times in Lebanon, as when the Jutland Post printed cartoons of Prophet Muhammad and Beirut were almost on fire. Words matter a lot. It is dangerous to offend anyone's religion in the Arab world. And see what Trump is writing on Twitter. There are many word wars in the world today. The lawyer in my movie discusses this: Can you say what you want, is it freedom of speech? ” 

- The same lawyer also says that the Palestinians have a kind of monopoly on suffering. Do you agree? 

"Then insult came out, it was Palestinians who attacked it most, since it points out that these people have also massacred. They accused me of being a right-wing fascist. I'm not – I'm just telling the truth, and this is documented. The Palestinians are not as innocent as people think, also they have caused a lot of human suffering. But no one talks about it. The Palestinians are always portrayed as the ultimate victims. ” 

- And this picture is something they consciously want to maintain? 

"Of course. When you play victim, you will have sympathy for your cause. Look at how much support the Palestinians receive in Norway – something I do not mind, well to note. ” 

- Do you see yourself as a political filmmaker? 

"No, only as a filmmaker. But I'm interested in characters that challenge the system, so that's a political aspect of what I do. For example, do you consider Oliver Stone to be a political filmmaker? ”  

- I should have asked him the same question. 

The film premieres October 5.

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Aleksander Huser
Huser is a regular film critic in Ny Tid.

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