Joe Connor (Hugh Dancy) has come to Rwanda because, like thousands of other young westerners, he is certain that the clichéd images of a war-torn, ravaged continent tell only half the story -- and that he can make a difference to the lives of ordinary Africans. The school echoes with laughter and vitality, as Joe inspires his brightest pupil, Marie (Clare-Hope Ashitey), and the other children. It reminds Father Christopher (John Hurt), the school's headmaster, of how he once was when he arrived in Africa thirty years earlier.
Then, as the country descends into a brutal genocide, the school becomes a haven for the thousands of Rwandans fleeing the violence. Joe burns with a fierce determination to help the refugees and promises Marie that protected as they are by UN soldiers at the school, she will be safe. But slowly surrounding the school are hordes of extremist militia -- baying for blood.