It has been over a dozen years since the Rwandan genocide—an atrocity in which as many as 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu sympathizers were killed by Hutu extremists in just a few months, while the outside world turned a blind eye or, worse, withdrew what little help it had offered in the first place.
David Belton covered the genocide as a reporter for the BBC. He went on to become a producer of documentaries like War Spin and Soldiers to Be, and he returned to Rwanda for his first dramatic film, Beyond the Gates, now showing in limited theaters. (Look for our review on Friday.)
Beyond the Gates, co-written and produced by Belton, is one of a recent spate of films about the genocide that began with the Oscar-nominated Hotel Rwanda and also includes Sometimes in April, A Sunday in Kigali and the upcoming Shake Hands with the Devil. One thing that sets this film apart, though, is the fact that its protagonist is a Catholic priest whose response to the atrocity is rooted in his own religious convictions.
Belton spoke about the film in a phone interview from his office in Great Britain.
Why did you pick this topic for your first non-documentary?
Belton: I had been a journalist for the BBC in Rwanda in 1994, and had covered the genocide, and had spent quite a lot of time out there during the events that the film depicts. So it was a story that was very close to my heart. When you move from the world of documentary to the world of drama, you've got to be really sure of yourself and the messages you want to convey, because it's a much more powerful medium. And so I wanted to be sure that I was going to tell a story that was close to my heart, something that I felt very strongly about.1