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March 2007

BEYOND THE GATES

By Kam Williams

BEYOND THE GATES


Distributor: IFC Films
Director: Michael Caton-Jones
Screenwriter: David Wolstencroft
Cast: John Hurt, Hugh Dancy, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Dominique Horwitz

Rated R for sexuality, partial nudity, and mature themes.
Running time: 111 minutes

   

Genocide in Rwanda Revisited by Paternalistic Bio-Pic

First, Hotel Rwanda chronicled the role that a hotel manager played back in 1994 by saving a thousand refugees from the senseless slaughter of a million of their fellow Tutsis unfolding outside the compound. Then, Sometime in April covered the same civil war only with a wider angle of the genocide. Now, Beyond the Gates revisits the tragedy again, but from the perspective of a trio of well-intentioned Europeans: a Catholic priest (John Hurt), an idealistic English teacher (Hugh Dancy), and a BBC reporter (Nicola Walker). If you haven’t seen either of the earlier offerings, this bio-pic based on actual events will serve as an excellent introduction to the blow-by-blow, pardon the expression.

However, those already familiar with the either of the previous pictures are likely to suffer from a slight sense of déjà vu while watching the ethnic cleansing all over again. Besides the hordes of Hutus in overkill mode, all there is to focus on, here, is the hand-wringing of the aforementioned whites who were apparently frustrated at every turn in their efforts to get the U.N. soldiers on hand to intervene.

Beyond the Gates struck this critic as slightly insensitive because of its subtle suggestion, at every turn, that the Caucasians were civilized and above the fray, while the indigenous peoples were out of control, bloodthirsty savages. Unfortunately, there’s only one well-developed and fully fleshed-out, African character, Marie, the beloved student the protagonists promise not to abandon, portrayed by Claire Hope-Ashitey (Children of Men).

A tad too pat in its paternalistic, post-colonial point-of-view for my taste, Beyond the Gates is a relentlessly-grim reminder of how the world simply watched when it would have been so easy to put an end to the madness.