Throughout December, Ben Sachs and I will take turns writing about our ten favorite films that had their Chicago premieres this year.

Written and directed by Xavier Beauvois, the stately and moving French drama Of Gods and Men tells the true story of Trappist monks ministering to poor Muslim villagers amid the Algerian civil war of the 1990s. As mujahideen close in on the monastery, targeting its medical supplies and other resources, the holy men confront the horrible possibility of martyrdom but resolve not to desert their flock. “Often, throughout my life, I’ve wondered how God could act so strangely,” says one of the religious texts they hear read aloud at their rustic dinner. “Why does he stay silent so long? Why is faith so bitter?”