In the movie The Insult, a front runner for winning the 2018 Best Foreign Film Oscar, in today’s Beirut, Palestinian refugee Yasser (Kamel El Basha) has been assigned to fix building code violations in an insular Lebanese community. When Yasser attempts to fix a drainpipe protruding from the home of Tony (Adel Karam), a Lebanese Christian, Tony tries to ignore the request. Yasser begins the repair anyway and Tony lashes out, destroying the handyman’s work, prompting Yasser to shoot back with a vulgarity. Tony goes to Yasser’s boss and demands an apology, which Yasser finds hard to do.
When an attempt at reconciliation between the two men is organized, the increasingly angry Tony lets loose with a racially charged insult striking at the core of Yasser’s Palestinian heritage. An angry Yasser then punches Tony in the stomach, breaking a couple of his ribs in the process.
The men subsequently face off in court, with Tony demanding an apology for the assault and Yasser standing his ground. With neither man retaining a lawyer and insubstantial evidence on both sides, the judge throws the case out, only to have it advance to a higher court.
Tony engages the Christian establishment’s most prominent prosecutor Wajdi Wehbe (Camille Salamé) for the case, while the young lawyer Nadine (Diamond Abou Abboud), who sympathizes with the plight of the nation’s refugees, takes on Yasser’s defense.
A media circus quickly begins to grow around the high-profile case, which exacerbates the already-high tensions between the Muslim and Christian groups in Lebanon’s Arab community. Inside the courtroom, the trial begins to move past the specifics of the case as the lawyers begin investigating the opponents’ private lives and backgrounds. Meanwhile, outside the courtroom, Tony and Yasser struggle with their personal lives and obligations—Tony with his wife Shirine (Rita Hayek) and Yasser with his own, Manal (Christine Choueiri)—as they begin to realize that their skirmish has grown far beyond a matter of pride.