Rwanda is a country that few people have heard of; even fewer still can spell it. This small African country faced huge internal problems in the early 1990s. Genocide is a word that we read in the newspaper, but it is not a word that we can usually relate to.
Director Michael Caton-Jones has done a superb job of bringing the civil strife of Rwanda to the big screen. Sponsored by the BBC and other organizations, Beyond the Gates is a very real and very disturbing movie detailing the terrible acts of man on his fellow man.
The opening credits say "The same key that opens the gates to heaven, open the gates of hell," and hell is a very apt description of the events that unfold in this movie.
Father Christopher (John hurt) is the stoic, seen-it-all missionary. Joe Conner (Hugh Dancy) is his naïve starry-eyed sidekick who believes that he can make a difference in the world. The interplay between these two characters is outstanding, and both actors are to be congratulated on producing such great performances.
The movie is set in 1994. Rwanda is a country in turmoil. The ruling majority Hutus are systematically decimating the Tutsi population. It is estimated that this genocide resulted in 800,000 deaths. The school that Father Christopher and Joe run becomes a temporary haven to thousands of Tutsi refugees fleeing the Hutus' flayling machetes.
Protected by Belgian UN peacekeepers, the school becomes a sanctuary within a war zone. Unfortunately the UN peacekeepers can do little to actually help stop the genocide. This is summed up in this superb piece of dialog spoken by the head of the peacekeeping force: “Our mission is not to enforce the peace, but to monitor the peace.” Caton-Jones used the actual locations for this recreation of real events, which makes this movie even more powerful and disturbing.