ResPoss Culture Club | Shooting Dogs

29 August 2014 | ResolutionPossible

Shooting DogsAs we wrap up our Rwanda series for ResPoss Culture Club, we have chosen to look at a British film that discusses the violence that shook Rwanda in 1994.

Released in late 2005/ early 2006, and funded by BBC Films and the UK Film Council, ‘Shooting Dogs’ was only about a year behind its American counterpart Hotel Rwanda. Yet the film is relatively unknown, and whilst Hotel Rwanda took a profit of $44, 465 in its opening weekend in South Africa alone, Shooting Dog’s profits seem to be fairly unknown. It seems that despite the similarities between the films, Shooting Dogs has struggled to enjoy the success and critical acclaim that Hotel Rwanda has.

ResPoss is all about starting discussions and delving into the unknown. Having watched Hotel Rwanda, we encourage you to watch Shooting Dogs and share your thoughts.

Watch Shooting Dogs

Shooting Dogs tells the story of the 100 days of killings in Rwanda in 1994 as seen through the eyes of two white English missionaries. The film starts with light hearted, stereotypical snippets of daily routines in Rwanda as seen by the British missionaries. The film’s initial light heartedness is quickly replaced by a more sinister tone when the Belgian UN troops stationed at the mission school inform us that the president’s plane has been shot down; the event which sparked the violence in 1994.

Many themes are raised throughout the film that are telling about the film’s origin and time in history: Various parallels are being drawn with the Jewish persecution in the Second World War as well as the film’s clear opposition with the debate of the international community whether or not to class the killings as genocide. The extensive coverage of the evacuation of white Europeans and the withdrawal of the UN from the mission school also hint at the filmmaker’s disapproval of the UN and international community’s response to the crisis.

The film is first and foremost a view of the killings from a rather naive young English man, giving the audience very little background to the causes of the killings and all the complexities that come with it. As part of the film’s final credits, the audience is shown members of the crew, many of whom are native Rwandans who survived the massacre depicted in the film. Whilst the presence of Rwandan people who lived through the events of 1994 most certainly has its benefits, many of the people on set are there as ‘victims’ giving the film a one sided view of the events- something worth considering whilst watching the film.

Watch the trailer for Shooting Dogs.

ResPoss asks

While you watch the film, ResPoss offers you a few things to think about.

  • Consider the opening text of the film: “For thirty years the majority Hutu government has persecuted the minority Tutsi people. Under pressure from the west, the Hutu president has reluctantly agreed a deal that shares power with the Tutsis”. What does this already tell you about the stance this film takes towards the events of 1994? Would the film makers have considered the violence Tutsi troops had been conducting in the north of Rwanda from Uganda since 1990?
  • The main characters of the film are two white men; a Catholic priest and his missionary. What do you think could have been the filmmaker’s reasoning behind this? The two characters are fictional and were created by the filmmakers. Why could the film not have depicted the characters and events exactly as they happened?
  • There are multiple scenes in the film that show some of the murder tactics of the Interahamwe during the period. Whilst these scenes can be distressing for the viewer, do you think such scenes are necessary when depicting events such as the Rwandan violence? Do these scenes help viewers to gain more perspective on what happened during the time, or do you think the depicted violence may be one of the reasons the film didn’t gain a great deal of box office publicity?
  • Hollywood blockbusters have a long history of violent content, confirming that the general public is not necessarily opposed to violence in films. Would the violence in Shooting Dogs be seen differently to the violence depicted in some of Hollywood’s major blockbusters, such as Saving Private Ryan, 12 Years a Slave and Blood Diamond?
  • Watching a film for many is a fun pastime activity.  Would you be likely to choose a film like this one to watch on an evening in? Why or why not? Is it important to watch films like this to learn about historical events, or should we be allowed to see film as entertainment?

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We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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