A monastery perched in the mountains of North Africa in the 1990s. Eight French Christian monks live in harmony with their Muslim Brothers. When a crew of foreign workers is massacred by an Islamic fundamentalist group, fear sweeps through the region. The army offers them protection, but the monks refuse. Should they leave? Despite the growing menace in their midst, they slowly realize that they have no choice but to stay... come what may. This film is loosely based on the life of the Cistercian monks in Tibhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996.

Director's Statement

Cistercian-Trappist life takes at its source the bible, the rule of Saint Benedict (written in the 7th century) and the writings of the fathers of monasticism.

It employs traditional forms of monastic prayer. The "liturgy of the hours" is group prayer largely based on the Psalms and performed in a chapel, seven times a day. Song forms an essential part of the prayer and of the rhythm of Cistercian life. The monks sing with one voice to enter into communion with the Breath of Life. In unison, they blend together as one in spiritual combat.

Cistercian monks prefer silence, which is the rule, during most of the day. But their life is also built around the teaching of the superior (abbot or prior) and group exchanges known as "chapters". All major decisions are made in the chapterhouse. Always voted in on, they are prefaced by one-to-one discussions in the superior's office.

The Cistercian-Trappists have no apostolic mission of evangelisation and refrain from all proselytism.

The rule of Saint benedict calls upon monks to practice hospitality and sharing, "especially with the poor and foreigners" and those who are suffering. It privileges manual labor and the fostering of relationships with neighbours through farming - vital during periods of insecurity and restriction.

Monasteries are usually isolated from populated areas to favor a contemplative lifestyle amidst nature. Every Trappist monk sets aside one day a month to walk in nature and meditate alone.

Today the Cistercian Order of Strict Observance numbers 2,600 monks and 1,883 nuns, in 96 monasteries and 66 convents the world over.


Cast & Crew

Directed by: Xavier Beauvoix

Written by: Etienne Comar, Xavier Beauvoix

Produced by: Etienne Comar, Grégoire Sorlat, Pascal Caucheteux

Cinematography: Caroline Champetier

Editing: Marie-Julie Maille

Production Design: Michel Barthelemy

Costume Design: Marielle Robaut

Cast: Lambert Wilson (Christian), Michael Lonsdale (Luc), Olivier Rabourdin (Christophe), Philippe Laudenbach (Célestin), Jacques Herlin (Amédée), Loic Pichon (Jean-Pierre), Xavier Maly (Michel), Jean-Marie Frin (Paul)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Cinematographer – Prix Carlo Di Palma 2010
  • European Film 2010
  • Feature Film Selection 2010