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Beyond the Gates

800,000 killed in 10 days

In April of 1994, a secondary school in Kigali, Rwanda became a refugee camp for thousands of Tutsi citizens as the Hutu militia initiated genocide against the Tutsis. Beyond the gates of this school, the Hutus taunted the Tutsis and angrily waved machetes menacingly. A UN peacekeeping force struggled to keep the Hutus at bay and the Tutsis safe. Five days later the UN peacekeeping force left and virtually all of the Tutsis were slaughtered.

Beyond the Gates is a fictionalized story set against the backdrop of the truly horrific events that transpired in 100 days in Rwanda and more specifically the events that transpired behind and beyond the gates of the secondary school that housed the Tutsis. Director Michael Caton-Jones tells the story via an exhausted Catholic priest, Christopher (John Hurt) and an idealistic English teacher, Joe Connor (Hugh Dancy).

The two men find themselves neck deep in the genocide struggling to make sense of the events transpiring around them and find a way to get help for the Tutsis who invariably will be killed as soon as the UN peacekeeping force withdraws. Both men are challenged to understand manís inhumanity and how to handle the imminent departure of the UN peacekeeping force.

Hugh Dancy does an admirable job as the school teacher. We initially see Joe engaging with his students in a moment of light heartedness as he commentates during an impromptu track meet for one of his faster students. Itís also evident during this sequence how passionately committed he is to his students. Later in the film as conditions worsen, Dancy brings an earnestness and gravitas that is quite believable.

Similarly, John Hurt brings a world weariness to his performance as the Catholic priest who is all too familiar with the strife and unrest that characterizes the relationship between the Hutus and the Tutsis. Remarkably, Christopher maintains his faith in humanity amidst the atrocities committed against the Tutsis beyond the gate of the school. Hurtís performance is powerful and inspiring as he puts himself in harmís way on numerous occasions to protect the Tutsis.

Michael Caton-Jones has done a masterful job in assembling Beyond the Gates. He employed the services of numerous who were directly involved with the Rwandan massacre in 1994. As a result, there is an air of authenticity to virtually every aspect of the film. The scenes in and around the gates separating the Hutus and the Tutsis are particularly powerful and disturbing.

Beyond the Gates is a powerful and important film. Aside from the excellent direction, great casting, and solid writing, it is a film that draws attention to one of the biggest failures of the international community in recent memory. The failure to recognize and respond to what was transpiring in Rwanda led to the death of over 800,000 Rwandans. Michael Caton-Jones manages to make a powerful statement that simply cannot leave one unaffected.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars