In the Dark

The First and Final Command

Of Gods and Men
Produced by Why Not Productions and Armada Films
Directed and written by Xavier Beauvois
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics


Director Xavier Beauvois’s Of Gods and Men quietly, one might say austerely, meditates on the faith and courage of nine French Trappists who faced death at the hands of Muslim fanatics in Algeria 15 years ago.  The film is poignant, stirring, and—unfortunately—incomplete.  For whatever reason, Beauvois chose to ignore some facets of the case that, in my opinion, should have been addressed.

In 1996, members of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) abducted seven monks from the Tibhirine monastery at the foot of the Atlas Mountains in Algeria.  (Two managed to hide from the Muslims.)  Two months later, according to the official story, authorities discovered the monks—or, rather, their decapitated heads.  Another Islamic outrage, or so it appeared.  In truth, the matter is a good deal more complicated.  Perhaps to preserve narrative clarity, Beauvois has passed over this matter, but evidence indicates that responsibility for the outrage may have belonged as much to the Algerian government as to the Muslim terrorists.  The Algerian Department of Intelligence and Security (DIS) had infiltrated the GIA so thoroughly that one of its double agents, Djamel Zitouni, had taken charge of a faction...

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