Actor-director Xavier Beauvois, who made Don’t Forget You Are Going to Die (N’oublie pas que tu vas Mourir) (1995), returns to the Competition this year with Of Men and Gods (Des Hommes et des Dieux ), a drama based on a true story.
After starting out as an assistant director for Manoel de Oliveira, Xavier Beauvois won the Prix du Jury for Don’t Forget You Are Going to Die in 1995. His new film, Of Men and Gods, retraces the abduction and massacre of the monks of Tibhirine in 1996, in the middle of the Algerian civil war. Almost fifteen years have passed since the tragic events that inspired this feature film, but the mystery of the motivations and identity of those responsible remains sealed.
The seven Trappist monks of the Tibhirine Monastery, whose leader is played by Lambert Wilson, were abducted in the night of the 26-27 March 1996. Their bodies were found two months later. This horror was initially attributed to the GIA (Groupe Islamique Armé). But in 2009, former General Buchwalter implicated the Algerian army which, he claimed, machine gunned the monks by mistake and afterwards arranged their bodies so as not to be held responsible.
This explosive context explains the choice of Morocco rather than Algeria as the shoot location for reasons of security. Of Men and Gods concentrates on the period that precedes the monks’ abduction and the Tibhirine Monastery was recreated for the occasion by set designer Michel Barthélémy, who was awarded a César for his work on A Prophet.