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SHOOTING DOGS, 2005
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SHOOTING DOGS,  MOVIE POSTERSHOOTING DOGS, 2005
Movie Reviews

Directed by Michael Caton-Jones
Starring: John Hurt, Hugh Dancy, Dominique Horwitz, Louis Mahoney, Nicola Walker, Steve Toussaint, David Gyasi, Victor Power
Review by Stefan Leverton


SYNOPSIS:

In April 1994, after the airplane of the Hutu President of Rwanda is shot down, the Hutu militias slaughter the Tutsi population. In the Ecole Technique Officielle, the Catholic priest Christopher and the idealistic English teacher Joe Connor lodge two thousand and five hundred Rwandans refugees, under the protection of the Belgian UN force and under siege by Hutu militia. When the Tutsi refugees are abandoned by the UN, they are murdered by the extremist militia.

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REVIEW:

Some films are made as artistic endeavour, others have economic rewards as an end to their means, others have a story that simply HAS to be told, Shooting Dogs is just this kind of film.

It tells the true tale of the 1994 genocide that took place in Rwanda. From the location of a missionary school for children, we follow the story from gap year teacher, Joe Connor (Hugh Dancy) and resident priest, Christopher (John Hurt) as they provide sanctuary for Tutsi people who are being persecuted by gangs of Hutu vigilanteís who are uprising following the shooting down of their Hutu Presidentís plane. The background being that the Tutsi and Hutu difference is a racially born hatred, with bloodshed never far away.

In the midst of all this is the arrival of a Belgian UN troop who have fled the growing violence and they themselves have set up camp at the school. However the UN troop, following UN guidelines cannot intervene unless a state of genocide is declared. There are obvious politics going on behind all this, and while this is of great interest in learning about the context of the situation, nothing comes close to rivalling the human element of the story. There are the hunted Tutsi people, idealistic teacher, Joe and the priest, Christopher, who after years of seemingly futile enterprise to help the people of Rwanda has become cynical about their mentality and the approach taken by such institutions as the UN.

We are confronted by scenes of disturbing violence and the question of who is right in the varying stances taken. The Belgian soldiers, outnumbered and with depleted resources, following rules but wanting to help, but risking consequences if they do, the Tutsi people, again outnumbered but unable to escape the horror. Then thereís the priest and the teacher, played with true gravitas by Dancy and Hurt respectively. Their choices are probably the hardest to bear. The Priest, Christopher has a somewhat defiant edge to his need to get involved and Joe is struggling with the urge to help everyone (which is impossible) but also his own self preservation.

They style of the film is actually very un-film-like. It is a BBC production, and has the feel of an extended television drama, but that is inconsequential, because what matters is the story, and what matters most is that the story is true, not only true but brought to you by some of the surviving Tutsi people, who were involved heavily in the production of the film. For that itís hard to find a better representation of such atrocities on film, and for that the film is truly powerful.

Review by Stefan Leverton 4/12/09

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