Beyond The Gates

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BEYOND THE GATES  was originally released elsewhere as Shooting The Dogs, in 2005, title change coming for the US market of 2007. A story with fictional characters, it portrays an amalgam of people and events during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Thus, it’s a good companion piece to the better-known Hotel Rwanda, and while it doesn’t have the quiet powerhouse Don Cheadle on hand, it may do an even better job of recreating the terrified atmosphere of the ghastly time. It’s certainly even less ‘hopeful’.

The great John Hurt, he of the wonderfully ravaged visage and priceless voice, stars with Hugh Dancy.  Dancy is a sensitive actor and attractive: I almost think that if he, rather than James MacAvoy, had been the co-star of Forest Whitaker in The Last King Of Scotland, then that Africa-as-tragedy film might have been a tad better (taking nothing from FWs amazing Idi, noted).  Dancy may be lost among the Hugh’s—Jackman & Grant (no, not O’Brian & Beaumont), but he does at least have some good display here.

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Crucially neither he nor the word-perfect Hurt crowd out the story, which has a Catholic priest and an English teacher caught up in the slaughter-zone.  The European actors and characters are backed by production crew members who were actual survivors (much the same as the excellent, underrated Bruce Willis actioner Tears Of The Sun ).

Filmed where it happened in Kigali, Rwanda, directed by Michael Caton-Jones, running 115 taut minutes, with supporting performances from Dominique Horwitz, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Nicola Walker and Steve Toussaint.

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I was travelling in the region in 1994, and had a number of heartsick conversations with locals in Tanzania and Kenya about the ongoing horror. I briefly fiddled with the idea of mini-bussing to the frontier to witness/lend a hand/write about the massive refugee exodus, but common sense overruled concerned curiosity.  Speaking to medical personnel who’d just returned, they warned me to keep out; as an amateur I’d just be in the way, would well have gotten sick. I’d have certainly gotten soul-sick.  I did witness a contingent of troops at the Nairobi airport, geared up and on the way, when the ‘international community’, spearheaded by the French, finally heaved to–too late. Another example of  ‘leadership’ sternly crowing about “what must be done” and then doing little beyond being regretful.  In memoirs.   No oil, you see.

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As a result of air traffic being diverted to the conflict, my exit flight to India was put on hold, and Air India put me up in the venerated New Stanley Hotel in Nairobi, passing the deeply ironic experience of being plied with gourmet dining, backed by Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”–at the same time that hundreds of thousands of people were collapsing in agony from dysentery, a few hundred miles to the West.  My infinitesimal, indigestible graze with brutal history back in its lounge holster, I unhesitatingly recommend this fine, neglected drama.

Original title refers to the restriction U.N. troops were put under: they could not fire at the perpetrators, but were allowed to kill the dogs feasting on the multitude of corpses.

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