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Shooting Dogs - Review

Shooting Dogs

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

THE Rwandan genocide of a decade ago has already been depicted in last year’s Hotel Rwanda but that should not deter viewers from seeking out Michael Caton-Jones’ equally memorable Shooting Dogs.

The film provides a powerful but bleak look at the events leading up to the massacre of hundreds of Tutsis at the hands of the majority Hutu population as the world basically turned its back.

It is given extra authenticity by the fact that it was shot in Rwanda itself, using the locations of the actual bloodshed and employing many of the survivors of the massacre as extras and crew hands.

The film follows the fortunes of two whites who are forced to bear witness to the slaughter – John Hurt’s Father Christopher and Hugh Dancy’s dealistic teacher, Joe.

Both work at the Ecole Technique Officielle in Kigali, training potential athletes and providing both a religious and an academic education for anyone who wants it.

Primary among their charges is Claire-Hope Ashitey’s bright young student, Marie, whose future is compromised by her Tutsi religion.

As tensions escalate and Tutsis begin to flock to the school in search of the protection of the UN, it soon becomes clear that very little stands in the way of the slaughter.

For despite the best efforts of a handful of reporters and Father Christopher and Joe themselves, the UN eventually does the unthinkable and withdraws from the school, leaving the Tutsis to face certain massacre.

As heartbreaking as watching these events unfold becomes, Shooting Dogs provides a pertinent reminder of a very dark chapter in contemporary world politics.

It seems inconceivable that the world stood by as the violence erupted and even more shocking that fully trained soldiers weren’t prepared to abandon their orders in favour of doing the right thing.

Set against the context of recent interventions in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, the inaction of world leaders seems all the more unforgiveable.

There won’t be a dry eye in the cinema during the end credits, when Jones turns his camera on the real-life survivors and recalls the suffering they experienced while placing their photographs on-screen.

The rest of the film is no less moving with both Hurt and Dancy providing masterful performances as men struggling to keep their faith in the face of unspeakable hostilities, while British newcomer Ashitey is genuinely moving as the tragic Marie.

Thankfully, Jones’ film never opts for easy sentiment allowing the events to speak for themselves, while his depiction of the violence is disturbing without being unnecessarily graphic.

In terms of its ability to shock and horrify, Shooting Dogs packs a far greater punch than anything Hostel or The Hills Have Eyes have to offer with their de-sensitised takes on human suffering.

It would be a shame, therefore, if this remarkable film fails to generate the healthy box office it so definitely deserves given its continued relevance to the political climate.

Only by raising public awareness can we ensure that such horrific atrocities can never be allowed to be repeated.

Hugh Dancy interview

Certificate: 15
Running time: 1hr 55mins