30 November 2005 | MrChi
Powerful, Touching and Human
In 1994 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda. During this time a school comes under siege. How far would you go to help save lives? The atrocities in Rwanda went somewhat unnoticed as the world watched and winced before changing their TV channels. The UN blundered while describing the events as "acts of genocide" as opposed to the genocide it so clearly was. John Hurt and Hugh Dancy star in this powerful and touching story of hope, fear and humanity.
Set in the Ecole Technique Officielle (ETO), a high school in Kigali, John Hurt plays Christopher a priest who has seen his share of tribulations and clings to what hope he has left while Joe (Hugh Dancy) is embroiled in the horrors that unravel at the school as the hope he had begins to slide.
Michael Caton- Jones is a director who has previously delved deeply into relationships in 'This Boy's Life' and 'City by the Sea'. In Shooting Dogs his exposition of humanity is excellently portrayed in what essentially has the make up of a Hollywood horror story. As the Hutu's seize power, Tutsi's and their supporters gradually come under fire as the school is besieged and machetes dictate who lives and dies.
Despite the characters being fictionalized the events took place and what we are presented with is a powerful and truly disturbing picture as no punches are pulled and the true terrors exposed. This acts both as a wake-up call and homage to those who died and those who survived the atrocities.
Father Christopher, played by John Hurt, is the lynch pin in this nightmarish scenario. Having been weathered by a life of strain his last strands of hope are fading as the chaos descends upon his school. As usual Hurt's performances stretch beyond impeccable to a level of authenticity one could only expect from someone who was actually there. As with Joe, whose childlike naivety is broken down gradually until he becomes a shadow of his former self, contrasting Christopher. The director uses a young Tutsi girl, Maria (Claire Hope-Ashley), to introduce and somewhat narrate the proceedings as an unsteady UN-laced serenity is transformed into a time of fear and suffering. (The title comes from the fact the UN were killing dogs that fed on decomposing bodies but could never fire shots against those wielding machetes.) This is a flawless film in its delivery and character portrayal. The cast and crew were made up of survivors and those linked closely to the events so the film has already had the authenticity in its bones. Hotel Rwanda approached the subject matter from a different angle- a story about heroism. This film shares the same theme but it is the basic approach that sharpens the emotions and the human elements that set it apart from other films of this nature.
From the playful opening scenes to the carnage that ensues, the audience cannot help but be enthralled and engrossed by man's potential for good and totally disgusted by his potential for evil.