Based on actual, horrific events of 1994, Beyond the Gates has a documentary realism, but doesn't provide the emotional payoff of the similarly-themed Hotel Rwanda.
Starring Hugh Dancy, John Hurt, and Claire-Hope Ashitey, this observational, true story with fictionalized characters filmed on location in Kigali, Rwanda centers on the points-of-view of a teacher and a worn-out priest.
Dancy is the idealistic, newbie instructor, Joe Connor, at a Catholic school who thinks he can help pupils like Marie (Ashitey, very good in Children of Men). Hurt is Fr. Christopher who heads the institution.
The script by David Wolstencroft quickly senses rising hatred of the Tutsis against the Hutus. Belgian UN military personnel like the one played by Dominique Horwitz had his soldiers watching the natives from the school. But, once the massacre of the Hutus began, the Hutu refugees fled to school as the troops were in a compromising position by the UN.
In Beyond the Gates one doesn't experience the harrowing genocide nearly with the intimate power of the film that starred a vulnerable, yet deeply venerable Don Cheadle. That's not to say that Dancy and Hurt provide some insight into their precarious state as Ashitey's bright, athletic student and Susan Nalwoga's pregnant mother have their moments opposite these capable, more established perfomers.
Michael Caton-Jones brings a naturalistic, unforced, even hard-edged look to what is ominous and downright shocking. He works decently with his crew to provide the sun-drenched dusty environment, as the score reflects the vibrant, voracious culture.
An urgency is felt as the angry, teary-eyed Hutus peer from the school fences, and extreme unfolding of it all works to something climactic in the school. Arguably more raw than Rwanda, one gets a notion of the racism that had a strong international pull, and the government in its austere, murderous ways.
Beyond the Gates had its original title changed from a sickening sight that resulted from all the dead bodies, as a glimmer of faith and hope perhaps can come amid the slaughter never prevented by the Western community.
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