It’s easy to sneer at the current vogue for movies bemoaning the agony of Africa, a continent whose troubles show up on our radar in large measure because they feed Hollywood’s gaping maw for action adventures set in exotic climes. However tainted by smelly motives, though, the best of such movies bring the irreplaceable urgency of the big screen to the mess of post-colonial Africa. Heaven knows, the story of Rwanda’s 1994 civil war—in which hundreds of thousands of indigenous Tutsis were hacked to death while Western powers dickered over the precise definition of genocide—bears endless repeating. Michael Caton-Jones’s Beyond the Gates focuses on the massacre of 2,500 Tutsis at a Catholic school abandoned to its fate by U.N. soldiers with orders to evacuate only Europeans. Though hobbled by its anxious impulse to teach history to an audience that by now surely knows the basic contours of Rwanda’s tragedy, the script apportions blame where it belongs (on high), while leaving smaller fry—including an admirably un-cute BBC journalist—dangling, however sympathetically, on the hook.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 27, 2007