Beyond the Gates would make an interesting double-bill with Hotel Rwanda. Both films concern the genocide of 1994—and the shock that those living in that country felt when the international community failed to do much more than evacuate the people there who happened to have white skin. But whereas the latter film was largely about Africans who survived the massacre, thanks to a cunning businessman who knew how to push the buttons of those in power, the new film concerns a Catholic priest and a teacher at his school, both of European descent, who can do little more than watch as the world gives up on their friends and neighbors.
Of course, the priest and the teacher can do more than watch—then can pray, too—and one of the most remarkable things about Beyond the Gates is its refreshingly positive view of the role that faith can play even in the darkest of times.
Much of this is due to the inspiring figure cut by John Hurt as Father Christopher, an engaging, compassionate man who, when we first get to know him, shares jokes with the nearby nuns, teases the teacher Joe Connor (Hugh Dancy) about a student who may have a crush on him, and generally seems to get along well not only with his Rwandan students and employees, but with their families, as well. But Father Christopher is not merely sociable; he also insists on maintaining a spiritual presence at the school even as the situation outside its walls turns increasingly hellish. As refugees arrive, seeking protection from the United Nations peacekeepers stationed there, Father Christopher keeps his cool and makes a point of serving mass at the usual times, almost as though nothing outside the chapel walls had changed.
Father Christopher is so upbeat about performing ...1