The French, and no doubt some Trappist monks, are disappointed that the second-place winner at last year's Cannes Film Festival, Of Gods and Men ("Des hommes et des dieux"), failed to make the 2011 list of Oscar nominees in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
The film, which has enjoyed wide critical and commercial success, is based on the true story of French Trappist monks living in an Algerian village in the 1990s who must decide whether or not to remain in their monastery despite a wave of Islamic extremism. In the process of making their final decision, they are forced to examine their consciences and the nature of their vocations, writes Philip French in the Guardian. "In a beautifully staged walk through the countryside, passing an emblematic flock of sheep, and sitting beside a lake, Christian [the abbot] appears to be examining himself in the light of Christ's teaching. We inevitably think of Thomas Beckett's self-questioning in T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral and those key lines: 'The last temptation is the greatest treason/ To do the right thing for the wrong reason.' . . . The subject matter is urgently topical, the themes raised eternal and universal."