Thursday, 6 January 2011

Of Gods and Men

This is one of a growing number of films that have piqued my interest for their grown-up, reflective and thought-provoking attitude toward religion and spirituality, alongside two great movies I saw last year: Jessica Hausner's Lourdes and the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man. The film won the Grand Prix at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Here's the plot synopsis as published on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb):

"Brotherhood. Religions. Faith. Martyrdom. Love. French monks are living, working and praying in a catholic monastery in Algeria in the '90s (civil war). It starts of showing how the Islamic locals and the christian priests coexist in harmony. The situation with the Algerian Muslim-terrorists becomes worse. They will have to decide whether to stay or go back to France. They are forced to question themselves and their mission very profoundly. Their sense of fraternity with the locals and amongst themselves is challenged. They are very much appreciated by the local Islamic population, especially the medic-priest, but very much in danger. This becomes clear after some Croatian volunteers of the monastery are brutally killed by the guerrilla-fighters. Threatened and unwanted by both guerrilla-forces and the government their presence becomes less and less obvious. At some point after intense confrontations with each other, the terrorists and the locals, they all decide to stay. In the end they are all, safe two who have hidden themselves well, abducted by the terrorists to swap them for their own prisoners in France. As we see them struggling in a snowblizzard in the Atlas mountains, we will not explicitly see what their final fate is ..."
You can read a thoughtful review of the film here:

Or get the classic Kermode and Mayo 5Live approach on video here:

I'd proposed a short festival of films for National Inter Faith Week 2010 at Phoenix Square but left it too late (and had too much to do for that week in other ways) to make it happen then. It's on my agenda for when it returns later this year though. Such festivals are a regular feature at Phoenix Square, where they've recently had programmes of films on such diverse themes as cycling, LGBT issues, and the spoken word. We're also thinking of approaching them to do something similar for the return of Leicester Speaks (AKA Local Democracy Week). I'm looking forward not just to seeing this movie, but also giving it extensive coverage here on the blog.

There's a mounting sense of anticipation and excitement as we walk toward Phoenix Square; the place is probably busier than I've ever seen it. There are certainly more priests here than I've ever seen turn out for a movie before (including Father John Lally, long standing member of Leicester Council of Faiths). We make our way through the small throng to the box office. I am already relishing this communal experience, looking forward to the collective spellbinding dance of colour and form before our eyes in the darkness of Screen 1. Which of us will request entrance to what is bound to be a united spritiaul experience in this forlorn and forsaken day and age of individuated isolated atomism?

"Two for Of Gods and Men please" I ask. "Sorry sir; sold out."

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