Several notables worth mentioning today. …
"Beyond the Gates" (IFCFilms) doesn't initially release in theaters 'til March 9 (New York) and then a bit wider on March 16 (Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.). But I was able to watch a screener of it last night.
I admit that I popped it into my DVD player with a little fear and trepidation, as I didn't know exactly how much bloodshed I would be seeing. The film depicts events during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and the original story was inspired by producer David Belton's experience in Rwanda while covering the news for the BBC's "Newsnight" (a current affairs TV program).
The accompanying press materials didn't tell me a rating nor how violent the film would be. Were we talking on the scale of "Hotel Rwanda" or not? Thankfully, it was not as graphic, but the story was just as powerful. A priest (played by William Hurt) and his secondary school in Kigali are caught in the midst of the strife. Also being used as a UN army base, the institute becomes a refugee camp for the Tutsi people who are being hunted by the Hutu militia. Hugh Dancy shines as one of the school's teachers, and Clare-Hope Ashitey ("Children of Men") touched my heart in her performance as one of the pupils.
Still not knowing the film's rating, I feel like it deserves a PG-13 (language, violence). I cried several times while watching how helpless the Tutsis – as well as the UN troops and the priest and teacher – must have felt as they knew what was going to happen to them. But God was there with them in the midst of the suffering, as the priest reminds the young teacher near the film's end.
This film is not for everyone, but I can say that I'm glad I watched it. (Incidentally, "Beyond the Gates" rates 73% fresh on RottenTomatoes.com's "Critics Tomatometer.")
Also stirring my heart this week is Thelma Wells' newest book, "God Is Not Through With Me Yet" (Multnomah/Bliss). In light of recent disappointing circumstances in my own life, I think it was definitely providential that I read chapter one and was encouraged to "keep singing" even when I feel stuck in one of life's dark closets.
Thelma knows about these closets as well. Literally. Her grandmother was so cruel that she would lock Thelma in a dark, insect-infested closet for hours when she was just a child. Now an author, Women of Faith core speaker and president of Woman of God Ministries, amazingly Thelma looks back and credits those awful times for turning her heart to song and lifting praises to her God. Young Thelma had nothing to do in that dark closet, and all she knew to do was sing the songs she had learned in church.
"I'm so glad I remembered how soothed I was in the closet," she says, "and I came to understand that the same soothing power of singing could continue to bring comfort when I was depressed and angry. … He keeps me singing … because God is not through with me yet!"
Another who is singing – and also doing a little kicking – is Hunter Smith, the Indianapolis Colts' punter who just celebrated a Super Bowl XLI victory with his team earlier this week. Hunter is part of the acoustic duo Connersvine that recently signed with INO Records.
He and his Connersvine singing partner Chris Wilson (they both lead worship at Every Nation Church in Indianapolis) are making the most of their off –season downtime and have already entered the studio this week to begin work on their debut recording. Pete Kipley (MercyMe, Rebecca St. James, The Afters) is wearing the producer's hat this time out. Look for Connersvine's project to hit the shelves later this year.
And there's really no good segue for my last bit … so I'll just put it out there for you.
More television with a faith angle (of sorts) is coming your way. It was just announced that Ron Eldard ("ER", "Blind Justice", "Freedomland") will play the lead in an upcoming CBS drama pilot called "Demons." He's playing an ex-Jesuit priest/psychologist who performs exorcism.
Not sure if it'll be "must-see TV" or not.