Each year the Alan Lutkus International Film Series presents Geneseo students with several foreign language films. The movies are selected to challenge viewers both emotionally and intellectually.
On Thursday March 22, the IFS screened the 2010 French film Of Gods and Men in Newton 204. The movie was a critical success upon its release, receiving the Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival. The film’s riveting portrayal of monks living in Algeria during the Algerian Civil War of the ‘90s deems the award well deserved.
Set during the Algerian Civil War, Of Gods and Men tells the story of a group of monks that coexist with the Muslim population that comprises their community. After receiving threats from fundamentalists, the government advises the monks to flee the country and return to their native France. This poses many moral and spiritual questions as the monastery provides the local community with medical care, food and friendship. To leave would mean abandoning everything for which they live.
Before the screening, English professors Anne Lutkus and Ron Herzman spoke about the film and its subjects. Professor Lutkus, whose late husband inspired the series, started the event by providing a brief historical overview of Algeria and its condition during the time in which the film is set.
Herzman then talked about the strong connection between the monks in the film and the local monks at the Abbey of the Genesee, and described some of the religious persecution Christian monks have faced. The lectures provided a strong introduction to the film and enabled its messages to resonate profoundly.
Lutkus said that she felt particularly drawn to the film in part because of the moral dilemmas it presents. “It brings up a lot of important questions, but it doesn’t give the answers,” Lutkus said. “We decided that we wanted the films [this year] to have a spiritual theme.” Previous films in the spring series included Vera Farminga’s directorial debut Higher Ground and Senegal-based film Sarabah.