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aka - Beyond The Gates
UK/Germany 2005
Directed by
Michael Caton-Jones
115 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Shooting Dogs

Shooting Dogs is a dramatization of events leading up to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda when the dominant Hutu people went on a killing frenzy slaughtering 800,000 Tutsis over a three month period as the West turned a blind eye to pleas for help. 

David Wolstencroft’s screenplay is focused not on the local historic-political setting of the tragedy but rather on the moral failure of the West. This is nicely explored through a variety of characters, primarily Father Christopher (John Hurt) the Catholic priest  who runs the Ecole Technique Officielle and his young  public school educated assistant Joe Connor (Hugh Dancy) but also Capitaine Charles Delon (Dominique Horwitz) who is commanding the U.N. peace monitoring forces based at the school. Set over a few days during which the massacre began, the film explores the different responses  the men have as they try to process events within their respective value systems and the duties that they imply. 

It would be easy for a film like this to over-play its hand but by and large Michael Caton-Jones steers clear of melodrama only giving in to it the final stages as Father Christopher realizes his saintly namesake's symbolic function. In the final analysis however it is the film-makers' commitment to bringing to consciousness the reality behind the fiction that gives this film its potency. Nowhere is this more evident than in the end credits during which a montage of stills document the personal loss of actual Tutsis who worked on the film. It's a moving ending to a commendable film.

FYI: 2005 also saw the release of two other strong films dealing with the same subject matter - a fictionalized drama. Hotel Rwanda, and the documentary Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire

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