The mistrust of Tutsis is shown by Joe’s Hutu friend well before the violence starts. The reluctance of UN Capitaine Delon (Dominique Horwitz) to disobey orders and intervene in the slaughter, speaks volumes about a political climate where saving lives in a third world country is simply not an option without massive financial incentive. The attitude of first world viewers of the tragedies on TV is grimly summed up by news reporter Rachel (Nicola Walker) who is numb to the situation, and incapable of shedding more tears for “just another dead African.” Through it all, the naïve viewpoint of Joe serves as the anchor to a very nasty reality, in which he goes through worry, panic, denial, horror, and the final choice between his ideals, and self-preservation.
The horror builds slowly, affecting each character differently, as the news of violence and slaughter leaks back to the school. Father Christopher beseeches the soldiers for help, while Joe simply cannot believe what he is hearing, until he witnesses a murder himself, shattering his innocence, and pushing him down a path in which heroics take a backseat to saving his own life.
Shooting Dogs plays out in the most desperate fashion, and there are too many deeply moving moments to mention. The scene in which the refugee spokesperson Roland (Steve Toussaint) begs the departing UN forces to machine gun the children to spare them pain of being hacked to death with machetes is a good example of the extreme circumstances and emotions that abound in the chaos.
This will possibly be the most gut wrenching and moving film you see all year, and despite the decidedly downbeat ending, it still manages to deliver a message of hope. The gore and violence is kept as restrained as possible, considering the subject matter, and the focus is the interaction between characters. I would recommend this to anybody who has the slightest interest in seeing what lies behind the sanitised CNN reports of global violence, or anybody looking to see an intensely moving drama.
It is worth staying for the closing credits, as it gives a brief background to some members of the Rwandan crew, themselves survivors of the genocide, and the losses they suffered.
- Ivan Sadler
Shooting Dogs may look like another unnecessary rehash of the Rwandan genocide, but it's probably as close to the truth as we'll ever get. It may also be the most moving film you see all year.
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