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Entries in Of Gods and Men (1)


"Of Gods and Men"

Of Gods and Men is based on the true story of the kidnapping and killing of seven French Trappist monks in 1991 in Algeria "during a gruesome, protracted civil war between the government — which declared martial law after annulling elections it appeared to have lost — and a ruthless Islamist insurgency." (New York Times)

According to John Kiser's The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love and Terror,

"The monks eventually became victims in a struggle among Muslims for a more just society, a struggle that had gone horribly wrong and had cost between 60,000 and 100,000 lives by 1996. Yet the monks were not martyrs to their faith. They did not die because they were Christians. They died because they wouldn't leave their Muslim friends, who depended on them and lived in equal danger."

A.O. Scott of the New York Times writes:

"Though it takes place in the recent past, Of Gods and Men has an unmistakably timely resonance, evoking as it does both the messy wars on terror and the rebellions currently convulsing North Africa and the Middle East. And yet while it takes pains to be historically authentic, the film, closely based on the true story of a group of French Cistercian Trappist monks caught up (and ultimately killed) in the violence, also keeps an eye on less worldly, temporal concerns."

For all its beauty, it is not an easy film to see. Gregorian chant and the monks' work with Muslim friends in their village steadies their lives — but at any moment that rhythm can be broken into by the violence outside.

The film becomes a meditation upon the approach to death. We follow journies that remain both individual and in another sense become one journey. And as we gaze for so long into each monk's face, amid the fear and turmoil, we also come upon moments of grace. But the resolution is never absolute. Nor do we imagine it could ever be in the face of a brutal death.

But what makes the film sometimes not-easy is also what makes it so beautiful and important to see.

Currently, Of Gods and Men is playing at a number of Bay Area and other locations.