August 31, 2017 / 8:49 PM / in 4 months

Co-writing 'The Insult' helped smooth divorce, director says

VENICE (Reuters) - Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri said he enjoyed working with his wife on the script of “The Insult” – if only because it provided a distraction from the divorce they were going through.

Director Ziad Doueiri (2nd L) poses with actors Rita Hayek (R), Christine Choueiri (L) and Diamand Bou Abboud during a photocall for the movie "The insult" at the 74th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The film, set in Beirut, is about a verbal slanging match between two individuals that leads to a highly-publicised trial that highlights the ethnic and religious tensions simmering in Lebanese society.

It is the fourth joint project that Doueiri and Joelle Touma have put together and the fact that both came from families with deep political convictions and different religious affiliations provides first-hand material for the script.

It also helped them take their minds off their own marital issues, the Beirut-born filmmaker said ahead of the film’s world premiere at the Venice film festival.

“It was the best divorce I ever had because we would sit down. We had to deal with some of the problems, but then we had to go back to the scenes ,” Doueiri told journalists in Venice.

“Writing the script ... was really one of the best experiences. It came up so easily, as if all our past in Beirut was boiling to that point.”

In the movie, Toni, a Lebanese Christian mechanic played by Adel Karam, smashes up repair work which had been done to an illegal pipe on his balcony by the construction crew of Palestinian foreman Yasser, portrayed by Kamel El Basha.

Soon insults and punches fly, and the two end up in court in a trial that brings to the fore the ethnic and religious tensions that still boil under the surface and keep Lebanon divided years after the end of the civil war in 1990.

“Lebanon is a complex place ... I grew up there half of my life and I know it’s always difficult to explain what the problem is,” Doueiri said. “At the end of the day (the film) is about two ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. It’s about justice but it’s about dignity too.”

The movie is one of 21 U.S. and international films competing for the Golden Lion that will be awarded on the Lido island on Sept. 9.

While most of the male characters in “The Insult” are hot tempered and easy to provoke, the women, including Toni’s wife Shirine, played by Rita Hayek, help defuse the tensions.

“She is the one who’s calming down her husband, she’s the one who is letting him get out of his shell, or maybe a box full of past pain because she didn’t live the war,” Hayek said of her character, adding it resonated with her as she was also only three years old when the war ended.

“She’s the voice of reason ... but she is also a big support. She is not fighting her husband, she is standing next to him.”

Editing by Richard Balmforth

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