A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the violent images in this film about genocide in Rwanda are hard to look at, especially scenes of children's bloody bodies. While the killings depicted in the movie are, famously, conducted primarily by machete, most of these attacks actually occur just outside the frame, though the killers' intent and effects are clear (lots of bloody aftermath). Militia men appear in various states of hysteria, aggression, and drunkenness. In one very sad scene, a father asks the departing UN captain to shoot the refugees left behind so that they won't have to suffer death by machete. Some language, drinking, and smoking, and one character admits her own racism.
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What's the story?
Marie (Children of Men's Claire-Hope Ashitey) likes to run. A student at the École Technique Officielle, she first appears in BEYOND THE GATES taking laps around her classmates. Her talent will, sadly, become crucial later in the film, when the 1994 Rwandan genocide robs her of her family, her home, and her youthful sense of hope and security. Michael Caton-Jones' film deals with the Rwandan genocide following the assassination of Hutu president Juvénal Habyarimana. In this film, viewers see the brutality and carnage through the eyes of the white men who were trying to help the Rwandans but have no power to protect the Africans in their care: Marie's teacher Joe (Hugh Dancy), Belgian UN Capitaine Charles Delon (Dominique Horwitz) and Papa Christopher (John Hurt), the priest who presides over the school.
Is it any good?
Beyond the Gates is peppered with devastating moments. Christopher's discovery of slaughtered French nuns, Joe's witnessing of killings by people he once considered "friends," Marie's father's request that the UN soldiers shoot the black Rwandans at the school rather than leave them to be murdered by machetes. Still, one of the movie's most provocative scenes involves BBC reporter Rachel (Nicola Walker), who articulates -- and suffers from -- her own racism. Remembering her empathy for victims of the Bosnian genocide the year before, she confesses, "Over here, they're just dead Africans." She pauses, then adds, "What a thing to say. We're all just selfish pieces of work in the end."
Beyond the Gates doesn't consider intersections between the Hutus' monstrous violence and resentment of European colonialism, imperialism, or capitalism. But it does suggest that Joe's ignorance and sense of privilege -- however honorable his intentions -- make a dangerous combination.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the events that the movie was based on. How could you learn more about the slaughter in Rwanda and what took place during and after the genocide? What roles did the United Nations, the United States, and the European Union take? How does this film compare to the 2005 movie Hotel Rwanda? How does what happened in Rwanda compare to more recent events in the Sudan? Are the situations different or similar? What is the media's role in cases like this?
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