Joe Connor (Hugh Dancy
) has come to teach in Rwanda because he believes he can make a difference. When the school becomes a haven for thousands of Rwandans fleeing the genocide, Joe promises his brightest pupil, Marie, that the UN soldiers will protect her from the hordes of extremist militia baying for blood outside the school. But when the UN abandon the refugees, Joe and the school's headmaster, Father Christopher (John Hurt
), face an agonising dilemma: should they leave or should they stand firm with the Rwandans. As the UN trucks force their way through the terrified refugees, Joe stares at the tear-stained face of Marie: what should he do? What would you do?
Based on real events and filmed at the actual location where this story took place, Beyond the Gates
is directed by Michael Caton-Jones. It is an emotionally gripping, authentic and powerful recreation of a tragic real life story that took place during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
"To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven. The same key opens the gates of hell."
What happened, and was allowed to happen, in Rwanda in 1994 should still shock us all. Like much of Africa, Rwanda suffered from a terrible colonial legacy. It was the West that ethnically divided the people, setting Hutu against Tutsi and even supporting the extremist Hutu government. As Rwanda's extremist leaders carried out their terrible plan to exterminate the Tutsi, the UN – on the scene to monitor a fragile peace between the Hutu and Tutsi – watched the carnage spread and failed to intervene.
But Michael Caton-Jones' film is not just about Rwanda, or Africa. It is also about all of us, as human beings – about our lives and our choices. Events that happen on the other side of the world affect us all more than ever before. And we are constantly confronted with choices, just as the characters are in the film; to do right, to do wrong. To do nothing. In the tragic circumstances of the Ecole Technique Officielle, depicted in the film, how would we act? Would we turn our backs on these people? Or would we find the strength to care?
This film could be made about Darfur or about Dachau or Kosovo. It is not about black and white but about what choices we make when we are free to choose.
See Hotel Rwanda
for another powerful fact-based story about the Rwandan Genocide.