The quote at the beginning of the film Beyond the Gates (originally titled Shooting Dogs) is a Buddhist proverb:

Every man is given the key to the gates of heaven.

The same key opens the gates of hell.

John Hurt, Hugh Dancy, and newcomer Clare-Hope Ashitey (a British actress of Ghanaian descent who is stunning in this, her first film) star in a true story about a European-operated school in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. The director, Michael Caton-Jones has made films I’ve respected before–Memphis Belle, This Boy’s Life, Rob Roy–but nothing compared to Beyond the Gates.

The calm life at Ecole Technique Officielle erodes when U.N. Peacekeepers arrive to provide protection to students and refugees who come seeking safety from warring factions of Hutus and Tutsis. Hutu militants attacked the school and killed the 2,500 people who were there. The film was shot at the very locations where the violent carnage took place. Victims of the violence were hired to work on the film. I can’t imagine it.

I also can’t imagine the magnitude of what happened in Rwanda beginning in April 1994. 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days. That’s 8,000 people per day. All the inhabitants in a city the size of the one I live in would have been wiped out in less than 10 days.

I continue to marvel at humanity’s capacity for inhumanity toward one another. The holocaust of slavery, the holocaust of World War II, the holocaust of Rwanda, and the holocaust of Darfur are harsh reminders that we haven’t learned compassion. We haven’t learned understanding and tolerance. We haven’t learned respect and love. So it is essential that we continue to tell these stories; to continue trying to discover each other’s–and our own–higher and best selves.

This brilliant and sad film ends at a place of hope. I’ll stop here and recommend that you find Beyond the Gates and watch it.

A final quote from the film:

You cannot respond to such a determined and terrible crime except with an equal determination to bear witness.