Movies from Lebanon, Chile, Russia, Hungary and Sweden are competing in the Academy Awards race for best foreign-language film.
Five nominees announced Tuesday include Lebanese filmmaker Ziad Doueiri's forceful "The Insult"; Chilean director Sebastian Lelio's drama with a transgender heroine, "A Fantastic Woman"; and Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev's stark divorce story "Loveless."
Also nominated are mystical abattoir drama "On Body and Soul" by Hungarian director Ildiko Enyedi, and Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund's art world satire "The Square."
The winner will be announced at the 90th Academy Awards ceremony on March 4.
The Insult (or Qadiyya Raqm 23 in Arabic) is a 2017 French-Lebanese drama film directed by Doueiri and co-written by Doueiri and Joelle Touma. It was screened in the main competition section of the 74th Venice International Film Festival. At Venice, The Insult's Kamel El Basha won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor.
In the movie, Lebanese Christian Tony (Adel Karam) and Palestinian refugee Yasser (Yasser El Basha) exchange harsh words after Yasser tries to repair a drainpipe on Tony's balcony. The fallout leads to violence, courtroom confrontations and national attention.
"The Insult" is the first Lebanese film nominated for an Oscar.
"It's such great news for us and for Lebanon," Doueiri said. "It's been a very, very long and difficult road to get where we are."
"The Insult" is about a petty plumbing dispute between a Lebanese Christian man and a Palestinian refugee that escalates dramatically. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where its Palestinian co-star, Kamel El Basha, won the best actor trophy.
Doueiri was briefly detained when he returned to Lebanon because he had visited Israel, where his previous film "The Attack" was shot. Lebanon and Israel are in a state of war and Lebanon bans its citizens from visiting Israel or having business dealings with Israelis.
"Making films means crossing borders," Doueiri said. He said he hoped "The Insult" would show a different side of the Middle East, a region often associated with violence and turmoil.
"It says that in spite of all these things, there is a hope of reconciliation," the director told The Associated Press.
Doueiri had recently described "The Insult" as "the pride of Lebanon's industry."
"We in Lebanon do Hummus and Shawerma well, and we do very good movies as well," Doueiri said referring to national dishes.
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has recently criticized Doueiri without naming him over filming "The Attack" in Israel.
"How is it not normalization when a Lebanese director goes to Israel several times after obtaining a visa from an Israeli embassy," Nasrallah said.
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