Dir: Michael Caton-Jones.UK-Ger. 2005. 114mins.
Yes, it is poor timingfor Shooting Dogs, arriving in the wake of the international tour deforce that was Hotel Rwanda and HBO title Sometime In April. Butthere's room for more than one film to be made about the 1994 genocide - or atleast for as long as Darfur shows us that lessons haven't been learned by theinternational community.
Before it went under, sales company Renaissance Films sold ShootingDogs - a BBC-UK Film Council production - to Haut Et Court (France), LaurenFilm (Spain) and Gussi (Mexico) among others. Since then, producer CrossDay hassold it to a raft of international territories, including Equinox (Canada),Avex (Japan) Metrodome (UK) Time Bandits (Germany) and Non-Stop (Scandinavia).
In the few territories where it arrives before Hotel Rwanda and SometimeIn April, Shooting Dogs should do decent business at the box office,but in the countries where it lags behind, its similarity in particular to HotelRwanda may work against it.
Marketing efforts will have to be focused and tight, although TV salesshould be strong, as will ancillary. It's a difficult movie to make people wantto see, although a worthwhile one.
Just as moving as Hotel Rwanda, similarly structured and shot, ShootingDogs carries a heightened sense of reality, aided by the fact that this wasshot entirely on location in Kigali. But unlike Hotel Rwanda, there is a clearsense here that the plight of the desperate Tutsis corralled in veteran priestFather Christopher's (Hurt) school-cum-UN-base will not be easily resolved.
Producer-writer David Belton was a BBC journalist in Rwanda during thegenocide, and the theme here is very much about how the Tutsis were abandonedto their fate.
However, the production's major flaw is to use Hurt's fictionalcharacter and that of a naïve young teacher Joe (Dancy) to illustrate thatpoint. Somehow, they dilute the message, and very much frame the tragedythrough the eyes of the west. Neither has been given aterribly strong character to work with, and while Hurt gives a capableperformance, Dancy is left floundering.
Also interesting, and more effective, is Caton-Jones' decision to keepFather Christopher, Joe, 2,500 Tutsi refugees and a conflicted UN captain(Horwitz) in the school without any news from the outside. There's no cuttingto TV monitors, or news reports, to get a sense of timing or any idea whetherthere relief is on the horizon.
By the end the audience also feels corralled in and a heightened senseof the Tutsi's overwhelming desperation.
Egoli Tossell Films
UK Film Council
David Wolstencroft, from a story by Richard Alywn and David Belton