[Spero] Directed by Xavier Beauvois, Des Hommes et de Dieux “Of Gods and Men” – a meditative film based on actual gruesome events – won a prize at the Cannes film festival for works fostering inter-religious understanding. Judged by an ecumenical jury, the pic recounts the lives and deaths of a group of French monks who were massacred and beheaded in a Cistercian monastery Algeria in events that remain mysterious and controversial.

The film’s plot centers on the Catholic monks as they wrestle with whether to flee during a bloody conflict between Algeria’s army and Muslim jihadi insurgents, or to remain in their monastery from which they had ministered to their Muslim neighbors. The statement of the jury declared that “The deep humanity of the monks, their respect for Islam and their generosity towards their village neighbors make the reason for our choice.” Moreover, wrote the jury, “This movie of great artistic value benefits from a remarkable group of actors and follows the daily rhythm of work and liturgy.” The jury also commended two other films in competition for Cannes’ main prize, “Poetry” by South Korean director Lee Chang-Dong and “Another Year” by Britain’s Mike Leigh.