One of the amazing aspects about film is the variety of types. There are films strictly for entertainment (musicals, blockbusters, etc.), there are films that make us use our imagination (fantasy, sci-fi), and there are films that make us think and reflect on the world and its people (documentaries and dramas). "Beyond The Gates" is one of those fact based films that will make you picture the world in a different light.
The story is based on the devastatingly tragic 1994 Rwanda genocide, in which the Hutu slaughtered the Tutsi. The film itself focuses on two white men (Christopher and Joe) as they attempt to keep the Tutsi safe by providing shelter for them at a school. Meanwhile, the UN troops stationed at the school simply stand around and eventually leave the Tutsi alone, making them defenseless in the face of an army of Hutu men.
"Beyond The Gates" is an undeniably powerful film that depicts not only the brutal, murderous, horrors of war, but the horrors of our government law organizations (in this case-the United Nations). It's sickening how the UN suits refused to intervene in this conflict and left the Tutsi people to their horrendous fate. It's enough to make one lose faith in humanity.
The movie also contains some haunting imagery (violence with hatchets off screen) and symbolism (a girl who loves to run finds herself running for her life) that only make the film more profound and unforgettable.
Regrettably, the film/script does contain two major flaws. For one, the script is decidedly one sided as it strictly focuses on two perspectives of white people. The story would have benefited and been more authentic if it focused on one or two Rwandan citizen point of views. Secondly, the low budget really hurts the film. In watching the film, the writer seems to be holding back from fully exploring the situation, the politics, the horrors more deeply.
Note: Amazon.com and the DVD Talk forum graciously alerted me to the fact that there are 2 DVD editions of this film. There is the uncut R-rated version (which I am reviewing) and an unrated version, which cuts out the swearing. I felt I should warn buyers and renters of the unrated version because who wants to see an edited/incomplete version?
The 1.78:1 widescreen picture quality is fuzzy at times and the subtitles are next to impossible to read, but overall the picture quality is average at best.
The English 5.1 Dolby Surround track is exceptionally good. I personally felt the background sound f/x of gunshots (and so forth) foreshadowed the looming threats and added to the unnerving atmosphere.
* Previews for "Beyond The Gates (AKA Shooting Dogs)," "Even Money," "The TV Set," "The Ultimate Gift," and "The Final Inquiry."
* A persuasive commercial prompting viewers to help those in need titled "Ways To Get Involved: The International Rescue Committee."
* A 38 1/2 minute "Making Of" featuring scenes from the film, set footage, interviews with the cast and crew talking about characters and researching the history of the tragedy.
* A commentary track by director Michael Caton-Jones. His monotone/sleep-talking voice made the track hard to sit through, but he did provide interesting descriptions of locations/people he saw and informative facts like how he used white people from an embassy as actors.
* The second commentary track (by screenwriter David Wolstencroft and producer David Belton) is even more of a chore to listen to in that the two sound like ranting scholars in a coffee shop. The two mostly discuss the meaning of scenes and point out how authentic scenes (the road blocks) and dialogue (Priest's point of view) are. The two also admit the budget limited what they could do, but they defend their work anyway. Personally, I think they could have written around the budget, but that may just be me.
* English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
"Beyond The Gates" is a solid and important film about the 1994 Rwanda event that sadly suffers from a few flaws. I would recommend checking out "Hotel Rwanda" if you want a more thorough film on the subject.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.