Of Gods and Men (2011) co-written and directed by Xavier Beauvois
Eight French monks live a contented and contemplative life in a remote African village. They pray and work to support themselves, producing food both to eat and to sell at the local market. Brother Luc is a doctor who gives physical and spiritual aid to the local population, who seem to be entirely Muslim. The relations between the monks and the villagers is congenial--the monks move freely throughout the village, participate in celebrations, and chat with the locals. The line at the monastery for the clinic is always long. Local Islamic terrorist activity threatens the village and the monastery. The monks have to decide whether they will stay in the face of possible martyrdom by the Islamic xenophobes or leave the village in search of a safer life.
The drama of the story is that decision. The monks live in community, meaning decisions are often made by voting. Personal differences and preferences make unanimity hard. The local government offers protection, but will the military be a help or a hinderance to the work of the monastery? Jesus has called us to love both friends and enemies, something both hard and dangerous. The terrorists come to the monastery on Christmas eve to take the doctor to their wounded soldiers an hour away. Brother Christian (the head monk) refuses, causing a tense moment and, later, a hard discussion for the monks.
The depiction of the monks' life is beautiful. The balance between work and prayer is shown throughout. They live in simplicity and modesty. They suffer from human frailty and do their best to support one another. They serve each other and the locals with humility and grace.
The film is a quiet but powerful masterpiece.
As often is the case with excellent films, Scott and Julie at A Good Story is Hard to Find Podcast discussed this film on episode 58 back in 2013.