Hard on the heels of a film about everyday people finding their way through life, the final offering of the Kitchen Stove Film Series examines a group of extraordinary men who devoted their lives to the pursuit of their faith.
Based on the true story of a Cistercian-Trappist monastery in Tibhirine, Of Gods and Men follows the lives and deaths of eight monastic brothers living out their daily ritual of farming and praying marked by communal meals and chants in the remote area of Algeria.
The French Christian monks live in harmony with the largely Muslim population of the region, providing medical care and education to the villagers, even joining in with local festivities and studying the Koran.
But when a crew of foreign workers is massacred, apparently by an Islamic fundamentalist group, fear sweeps through the region. Despite the growing menace in their midst, the monks refuse protection from the army; when the Algerian government orders them to return home and the local mayor urges them to flee the monks face a crisis of conscience as they slow realize they have no choice but to stay, no matter the cost.
Xavier Beauvois based his film on the Tibhirine tragedy, following the story from a few months before the monks’ kidnapping in 1996. The story begins several weeks before the terrorists issued an ultimatum ordering all foreigners to leave the country.
It is not a documentary, however. Beauvois is more interested in capturing the spirit of the events and what was at stake in the community than in recounting the exact details of a historic reality.
Each monk will make his decision by assessing the human, political and religious stakes and by plumbing the depths of his soul and conscience. This dramatic tension accompanies the practical and mystical daily life of the community: their deep ties to the villagers and the spirit of peace and charity with which they try to counter the violence eating away at the country.