While it got some early buzz at Cannes last year and ended up being the official French entry for the forthcoming Oscars (it didn't make the cut), that's pretty much where the admiration ended for Xavier Beauvois’ religious drama "Of Gods and Men." At least on his side of the ocean.
In its native France, "Of Gods and Men" leads the pack at their version of the Oscars, the Césars. It has 11 nominations, landing in pretty much every category including Best Picture and Best Director, and it's easy to see why. Based on a true story and set in Maghreb in the 1990s, the film focuses on the co-existence between a Christian monastery and the adjacent local village that is challenged by an influx of fundamentalist Muslims in the region. And yeah, the film makes broad strokes to make the modern day parallels clear. We saw the film at Cannes and called it "a stoic, stonefaced, reverential tale about the sacrifices of faith and the extreme tests of tolerance" that was marred by glacial pace and self-righteous air.
The film opens on February 25th. Check out the synopsis and trailer below (or in HD at Apple).
Eight French Christian monks live in harmony with their Muslim brothers in a monastery perched in the mountains of North Africa in the 1990s. When a crew of foreign workers is massacred by an Islamic fundamentalist group, fear sweeps though the region. The army offers them protection, but the monks refuse. Should they leave? Despite the growing menace in their midst, they slowly realize that they have no choice but to stay... come what may. This film is loosely based on the life of the Cistercian monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996.