Beyond the Gates
The genocide that occurred in
1994 – and is being echoed currently in
– is so horrifying as to defy words. Through cultural and religious
differences, perfectly normal Rwandans were persuaded to slaughter hundreds
of thousands of their neighbors who were of a different tribe – all the
while the rest of the world turned a blind eye upon the carnage.
It is an exceptionally horrible and dramatic moment in recent
history, so it only makes sense the film would turn its lens to the things
that happened in hope that we may learn from it and stop such wholesale
carnage from again occurring. (Sadly, that seems unlikely to happen…)
Beyond the Gates was actually released in
years ago, under the title of Shooting Dogs – a reference to a UN
sanction that international guards could not intervene by killing
threatening humans but could assassinate canines that caused potential
danger. The film was not given a US release at the time – probably because
of the fear that the film may be overshadowed by the Oscar-nominated film
Hotel Rwanda, which told a very similar story of the chaos and
devastation of that African country.
It is a shame that Beyond the Gates has been held back,
because it is every bit the equal of the shocking but spectacular Hotel
Thankfully, the film is finally getting a US release,
because this is a heartbreaking film, which needs to be seen and understood.
The film relates a true story in which thousands of the Tutsi
refugees were put up in a Catholic school called École Technique Officielle
as the encampment is surrounded by hordes of machete-bearing Hutu tribesmen
looking to kill them. The school is run by Father Christopher. John Hurt
is wonderful as this aging priest who has been working in
years and is now starting to lose his faith when he sees the inhumanity
He is aided by Joe Connor (Hugh Dancy), an idealistic
middle-classed Brit who decided to come to
help and finds himself embroiled in a civil war. His idealism is stripped
away slowly but surely. At first he feels if he can get a BBC reporter to
show what is happening the world will intervene, but he quickly comes to
realize that the world does not care.
The school also houses an UN peace-keeping force – which is the
only reason that it is not overrun by the hordes outside the gates.
Unfortunately, the UN force leader (Dominique Horwitz) is shackled by an
order not to intervene. When he is finally ordered to retreat from the
compound – and bring all the Europeans with him to safety. He knows as well
as everyone that their leaving will sign a death sentence to the thousands
of Tutsis who are being sheltered there.
Because of this, Connor has to make a decision between his love of
the people, his political ideals and the fear for his own life. It is a
truly devastating moment.
It is quickly followed by an even more wrenching moment. A Tutsi
father asks the UN – undramatically but desperately – if the troops can
shoot them all before withdrawing from the compound. Shooting, he calmly
explains, would be more humane and less painful than being hacked to death
Beyond the Gates
is not easy to watch
because it is full of such heartrending sections. However,
it is a brilliant and important film. The horror, ugliness and depravity of
genocide must be acknowledged if it is ever to be stopped. (3/07)