Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Imagining the Real—The Rwandan Massacre On Film: Shooting Dogs

The Greencine Daily has its finger on the pulse of recent controversies surrounding the upcoming release of Michael Caton-Jones' Shooting Dogs, the most recent in a cluster of films focusing on the 1994 Rwandan massacre, which I've attempted to capsulize on The Evening Class.

The film has its own blogsite where the life of the film is being tracked as it enters the public sector, along with several links to educational and informational materials. Of primary note is its sister blogsite Rwandan Survivors, a site designed "to be a voice and a platform for the survivors of the Rwandan Genocide." Rwandan Survivors contains testimonials and accounts of the genocide but also aims to look to the future, soliciting views on how such atrocities can be prevented from happening again.

Alice O'Keeffe reports to the Guardian Unlimited on the accusations that survivors were "traumatized" after being used as extras in a re-creation of the Rwanda killings. David Belton, the writer and producer of Shooting Dogs has defended the project: "I have been in close communication with the Rwandan government and organisations working there since we left, and none of them has mentioned any subsequent problems. We made the film in Rwanda because the Rwandans wanted us to. They were appalled that Hotel Rwanda was filmed in South Africa, with South African actors."

Linda Melvern, writing for The Observer, claims Shooting Dogs is fictional and that the BBC film has compounded the original sins of the Western media.

Director Michael Caton-Jones counters with an article for The Independent. "For many, the word Rwanda has become a simplistic symbol for Darkest Africa, home of the bestial and barbaric. In representing a specifically Third World madness, it neatly fuses lazy racial preconceptions with a frighteningly widespread First World ignorance. It was something 'they' did to each other, over 'there'."


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Anonymous said...

Hi Michael, just found your site via Girish's. I've read this post on films about Rwanda, as well as your earlier one. If you haven't seen it, you might want to take a look at an excellent Frontline documentary distributed by PBS called "Ghosts of Rwanda" (now available on DVD). It's essentially a full-scale documentary about the causes of the Rwandan genocide, the failed UN and US response, and the aftermath. I saw the documentary when it was broadcast, and I was particularly impressed (though not in a good way) by its analysis of the UN response. Had the UN simply stayed, things might have been different. What you describe in your earlier post on Sometimes in April about the UN leaving and Hutus simply waiting, machetes in hand, is exactly what happened in certain instances; there are some tragic stories told by UN workers in the PBS documentary about that. At any rate, it's something worth pursuing if you're interested in films (both fictional and non-fictonal) about Rwanda.

Michael Guillen said...

I most certainly am, Michael, and I thank you for bringing the "Frontline" documentary to my attention. Coincidentally, it had just blipped on my radar when I was reviewing the Rwandan Survivors blog this morning; but, with your added input, I will make a concerted effort to see it soon. Thank you for the input!!

Anonymous said...

You're quite welcome. I hope you find the documentary useful.