Always Rwanda

This started as my on-line journal while I was living, working, and conducting my master's field research in Rwanda in 2003. I returnedto Rwanda as an Assistant Director for an educational program and decided to pick it up again.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Shooting Dogs

It's been a while since I have been in blog editorial mood, so forgive me if I am rusty. I just want to quickly comment on the most recent Rwanda film to hit the big screen.

Despite having made plans to see the film Shooting Dogs with friends next week, I found that my Rwanda obsession got the better of me and I slipped into a viewing on the very first day the film was released in the UK, which was last night. There have been a number of films on the Rwandan genocide to emerge in recent years, including Hotel Rwanda and Sometimes in April (in my estimation, the best at helping outsiders understand the complicated circumstances of the genocide, avoiding many of the cliches of Hotel Rwanda), and there are more to come. Although I am pleased to see the wider world taking interest in Rwanda's story, I remain an interested critic.

While the film succeeds where others have failed (Hotel Rwanda comes to mind), I still have to wonder why the West needs a white hero(ine) to stir our outrage and sympathies. Shooting Dogs centers its story around a British priest (John Hurt) and a young British teacher (Hugh Dancy), therefore our view of events comes from their perspectives. So we are thrown into the difficult choices to be made by mzungus during the genocide, distancing us from the Rwandans. They did throw in a young beautiful Rwandan woman, a promising runner, but her story was more of an appendage, linked to her crush on the handsome young British teacher. I just have to wonder when the stories of Rwandans be enough?

The film was shot entirely in Rwanda with Rwandan crew. This is no easy undertaking in a tiny country still coming to terms with it's history, where people's wounds remain open. What I found most touching at the end, and just prior to the credit roll, there were clips of Rwandan survivors among the crew. This put the human face to today's reality for many Rwandans who were themselves hurt, raped, infected with HIV/AIDS during the genocide and who naturally lost unthinkable numbers of family and friends.

The film premiered in Kigali last week at the National Stadium- The Guardian wrote the following: http://film.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,1740443,00.html

To link to the film's website:
http://www.renaissance-films.com/index.asp?page=films/shootingdogs.html&nav=02

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