At the end the prestigious 12-day Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, a film on a group of French monks who were martyred in Africa during the 1990s won the event's second highest honor.
“Of Gods and Men,” a film by the French director Xavier Beauvois, centers around the true story of seven Cistercian monks who were taken hostage and murdered by Islamic fundamentalists in 1996. Though the monks were told to return to their native France, the group refused and chose to remain in the conflict-torn region of the Algerian mountains, knowing that they would be martyred.
On Sunday, the movie was awarded the “Grand Prix” honor, which is the festival's second highest prize.
Kate Muir, a film critic for the London-based Times Online, called the film the “most intensely passionate” one of the Cannes event, and according to her, during the movie's premier the “audience wept.”
In her May 19 review, Muir discussed Beauvois' depiction of the monks, who lived contemplative lives in the service of the poor in the Atlas Mountains. In the film, the seven men build strong friendships with their surrounding community and live in relative peace until conflict arises between the local government and extremist groups. Though the monks are advised by everyone involved to leave, each one decides to stay and is eventually held hostage and murdered by the fundamentalists.
“The deep humanity of the monks, their respect for Islam and their generosity towards their village neighbors make (up) the reason for our choice,” stated the festival jury who issued the award. “This movie of great artistic value benefits from a remarkable group of actors and follows the daily rhythm of work and liturgy.”