Based on a true story, “Shooting Dogs” looks at the 1994 Rwandan genocide - when 800,000 Tutsis were butchered by Hutu extremists - from the viewpoint of a Catholic priest (Hurt) and an idealistic young teacher (Dancy) working in Kigali.
Protected by a small Belgian UN garrison their school/mission, the “Ecole Technique Officille”, became a sanctuary to over 2500 Tutsis as the campaign of orchestrated slayings overtook the country.
But then, unbelievably, the soldiers were ordered to move out of the area, leaving the unarmed civilians at the mercy of the machete-wielding Hutu mob outside the gates.
“Shooting Dogs” follows the same blueprint as last year’s “Hotel Rwanda” but tells the story from the perspective of a white man (Dancy), rather than Don Cheadle’s native hotel manager.
The highlight of the impressive extras package is a 40-minute “Making Of” featurette that includes interviews with the actors, producer David Belton (who actually covered the Rwandan genocide for the BBC), and several members of the crew who survived the massacre. There are also two commentaries, the first (and most accessible) from Benton and writer David Wolsencroft, the second by director Michael Caton Jones who explains that he initially turned down the project because he didn’t want to "demean" the people still affected by the genocide. The DVD-ROM features educational material about the genocide and diaries from the filmmakers and actors.
Some reviewers have criticised this technique, claiming that director Michael Caton-Jones (who released Basic Instinct 2 in the same week – talk about the sublime to the ridiculous!) is making this story less the tragedy of a million dead Rwandans than that of a couple of impotent Westerners. However, we have already seen an African perspective on the genocide in “Hotel Rwanda”, so what’s the harm in having a different view to the tragedy? Also, casting well-known faces in the lead roles (Hurt in particular) will ensure more people see the film and learn the truth behind the massacre.
If the Western press had managed to do the same a decade earlier the slaughter might never have occurred. A moving and important film.
Staring: John Hurt, Hugh Dancy, Dominique Horwitz , Claire-Hope Ashitey , Louis Mahoney, Nicola Walker , Steve Toussaint
Directed by: Michael Caton Jones
Extras: Audio commentary from director Michael Caton-Jones, Audio commentary from writer David Wolstencroft and producer David Benton, 'The Making Of Shooting Dogs' featurette, Michael Caton Jones and David Belton make a research visit to the ETO (29 mins), Filmmaker's diaries, Education material on the Rwandan genocide