UPDATED: French-Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri, who was briefly detained by authorities in Beirut the day after his new film “The Insult” won a prize at the Venice Film Festival, has been cleared of all charges by a Lebanese military court.
“Charges against Ziad have been dropped by the military court: he is free,” producer Jean Brehat, who works regularly with Doueiri, informed Variety in a text message on Monday.
French news agency Agence France-Presse had reported that Doueiri was briefly detained upon arriving at the Beirut airport Sunday and that he was ordered to appear Monday before a Lebanese military court. Though the exact charges against him remain unclear, the action on the part of Lebanese authorities is believed to stem from the director’s previous film, “The Attack,” which was partly shot in Israel. Lebanon bans its citizens from visiting Israel, with which it is officially at war.
“They held me at the airport for two and a half hours,” Doueiri told AFP late Sunday, adding that he was released only after his French and Lebanese passports were confiscated. Doueiri also said he was ordered to appear Monday morning before a military tribunal “for an investigation into the charges.”
“I am profoundly hurt. I came back to Lebanon with a prize from Venice. The Lebanese police have authorized the broadcast of [‘The Insult’]. I have no idea who is responsible for what has happened,” the director told AFP. “We will find out at court who is behind this affair.”
Doueiri was not immediately available for comment after the military panel apparently cleared him Monday. Brehat said that the director’s passports were returned to him.
“The Attack” is a drama centering on a renowned Arab surgeon living in Israel who discovers that his wife is the perpetrator of a suicide bombing. The movie was banned in Lebanon in 2013 following its release because Doueiri partly filmed it in Israel and used some Israeli actors. In June, Lebanese authorities banned Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman” because lead actress Gal Gadot is Israeli.
“The Insult,” Doueiri’s fourth film, is meant to have its Lebanese premiere this week. The movie chronicles how a single slur pits a belligerent Lebanese Christian auto mechanic against an older Palestinian Muslim and flares into a court case that divides national Lebanese opinion. Kamel El Basha, one of the two male leads, won Best Actor in Venice on Saturday.
The National Union of Italian Film Critics and the Venice International Critics’ Week section of the film festival condemned Doueiri’s treatment by Lebanese authorities. “This is an unacceptable act of intimidation – an intolerable abuse of power,” the organizations said in a statement.
“The Insult” is traveling from Venice to Telluride and Toronto.
Doueiri, who started his career working as first camera assistant on Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Jackie Brown,” is also the director of Lebanon civil war-themed “West Beirut.”