Over the course of 100 days in 1984, over 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis were massacred by fellow Hutu countrymen. It was a systematic attempt to eradicate all trace of the Tutsis race from the face of the earth.
Hotel Rwanda did a magnificent job portraying the Rwandan genocide a few years back, highlighting through one story the plight of a nation.
Shooting Dogs isn’t quite as polished as Hotel, but it’s a similar story, one that viewers of Hotel will recognise. The UN stood around, like a lifeless zombie, not knowing quite what to do, nor having the power to do it. And as with Don Cheadle character, Shooting Dogs also has a lone hero, one who finds his real purpose in life during the height of the terror.
The lone hero is Christopher, A Catholic Priest played superbly by John Hurt, not as an overbearing religious man, but as someone struggling to comprehend his place in the increasingly tenuous situation.
Shooting Dogs isn’t an easy film to watch, a lot of the violence is implied rather than shown, early on in the movie, but as the violence rises, its almost as if there isn’t enough room to hide the effects of the violence, and little by little we are shown the graphic nature of genocide. It never feels gratuitous or forced, rather a natural evolution of the story being told.
The story never wanders far from the central location, a local Catholic School, but manages to show both sides of the story, even if the overriding feeling is one of good Tutsis vs bad Hutu. This is tempered however with a scene where one of the Tutsis students asks Christopher, as Machete wielding Hutu surround the school; “Does God love everyone? Even the Hutus on the road outside?”
Shooting Dogs is a powerful story that raises questions of faith, the human condition, and the absence of international community.
Food for thought
Every man is given the key to open the gates of heaven. The same key also opens the gates of hell. – Buddhist proverb.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read.
Duration: 115 mins.
Actors: John Hurt, Hugh Dancy, Steve Toussaint, Louis Mahoney, Nicola Walker, Dominique Horwitz, David Gyasi.
Director: Michael Caton-Jones.
Release Date: 20-03-2008.