Beyond Hatred absorbingly covers the 2002 murder in Reims, France, of 29-year-old homosexual François Chenu, who was beaten in a park by three skinheads and thrown into a pond. Director Olivier Meyrou focuses on the emotional aftermath of the crime for Chenu's family and the subsequent trial of his killers.
The film takes a while to get started, with Chenu's sister describing the horrific details of his death over static footage of the park itself. The murderers were bent that night on "doing an Arab," but, when they came across Chenu instead, he proved a tragically apt substitute for their hatred of foreigners and homosexuals. We learn that Chenu, instead of backing away, admitted to being gay and confronted them, calling them cowards, which probably only incited their violence. The interviews with Chenu's parents, although heartrending, have a whiff of somewhat clichéd calculation about them, especially when an interrogator--Chenu's sister--likens his mother's reaction to the news of his death as that of a she-wolf.
Once things get to the courtroom, the film grows in interest, as we see both sides of the case and learn more about the leniently xenophobic and racist family lives of the skinheads, whose homes were rife with Nazi propaganda and the like. They'd had a history of hate crimes and, in court, exhibit little remorse for their actions. The Chenus' lawyer, a gnomically intelligent woman, offers even-handed analysis of the elements which went into their evil makeup, as well as a firm conviction that such intolerance must be punished to the maximum. There's even a moment of family levity when the Chenus--whose grief has undergone the inevitable changes over two years' time--argue amongst themselves about the correct wording of their statement to the press. In a gesture of astonishing forgiveness, they express the desire to leave a door open--which becomes changed to "ajar"--for the killers to change. This forgiveness is even amplified six months after the trial--in which the murderers received lengthy prison sentences--when Chenus' parents read a letter which truly reaches out to them.