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January 24, 2018 1:01 pm

Lebanese Director Arrested in Past for Filming in Israel Gets Historic Oscar Nod

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Ziad Doueiri in an interview with BBC News. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

A Lebanese director who was arrested for filming in Israel had his movie receive an Oscar nomination on Tuesday for best foreign language film.

Ziad Doueiri — director of Lebanon’s official Oscar submission “The Insult” — made history by earning his home country its first-ever Oscar nomination since it began submitting films in 1978. No Lebanese film prior to “The Insult” even advanced to the shortlist.

The film is about an altercation between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee that leads to a heated trial, national attention and discussions about the animosity between the Lebanese and Palestinians. Israel is brought into the mix and Doueiri explained about the film: “It’s a story of two people, one who is seeking justice and the other who doesn’t believe in it. The film is also about [how] you cannot have exclusivity on massacres. The Palestinians, in the last 20, 30, 40 years, they have kind of gained a monopoly on their suffering. ‘The Insult’ is a way of saying, ‘You can’t blame Israelis all the time.’”

Doueiri, who emigrated to the United States in 1983, was detained in Beirut in September after the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and garnered one of its main stars a best actor award. The award-winning director had his passports confiscated and was required to appear in court the next day before a military judge.

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The main reason for his arrest circled around “The Insult,” but his 2013 film “The Attack” was also used against him, Doueiri told Deadline. Lebanese citizens are banned from visiting the Jewish state and “The Attack” was partially shot in Israel. Doueiri said the the arrest was actually “based on ‘The Insult’… The BDS wanted to shut down ‘The Insult’ because of the content, but they couldn’t do it legally,” though they did have reasons for “The Attack.” The issue was resolved immediately, Doueiri said, because “the judge was smart enough to say even though ‘The Attack’ violated the law by shooting in Israel years ago, the statute of limitations had run out.”

Doueiri told Deadline it felt gratifying having “The Insult” selected as Lebanon’s Oscar entry. He said, “When you are attacked in such a vicious manner and then arrested, it fragilizes you. No matter how optimistic you are or how much you want to tell the truth.” He added about the Oscar nomination, “[It] gives you some sort of redemption even though it’s not your fault. It gives you some comfort that you are protected from some place. Those that attack you will attack you more, but you become more immune.”

The Oscar bid comes not long after Lebanon made headlines for banning Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” over the filmmaker’s support for Israel. Lebanon’s Interior Ministry later overturned the move.

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