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Truly moving Picture
tollini24 September 2006
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2006. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit organization that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

As the film starts, I first thought that "Hotel Rwanda" told this story, albeit differently, and there was no reason to do it again. As the story progresses, my next thought was that you can never stop telling this story again and again – 800,000 dead, mostly Tutsis, at the hands of the Hutus, the majority in power. "The Diary of Anne Frank" could not tell the whole story of another genocide 45 years earlier when the Nazis slaughtered many millions of Jews. There was room, and a need for "Schindler's List."

This film revolves around a school in Rwanda in 1994 under siege. Inside of the school are many black Tutsi students, a UN peace-keeping force with a sympathetic Belgium Captain, a dedicated young white teacher, and the school head, a Catholic priest named Christopher, played brilliantly by John Hurt. The school is surrounded by machete-bearing Hutus waiting for the chance to kill any Tutsi they find whether they are a baby, a woman, an old man, simply any Tutsi, who they, the Hutus, derisively call cockroaches. Mans' inhumanity to man could not be displayed in a more ugly fashion.

What does a well meaning, civilized person do when confronted with indescribable savagery? Run for safety or futilely stay and die?

This question is answered differently by different characters. The priest is losing all hope, but is innately courageous and focused on his faith. The UN Captain is sympathetic, but like any soldier feels driven to follow orders even if his superiors are remote and insensitive. The white teacher has great affection for the Tutsis, but is just starting out in life. A BBC reporter leaves the under siege school when first given the chance and states what might be true for most of us: "We're all selfish people in the end."

"Hotel Rwanda" was nominated for three Academy Awards for acting and writing. This film has the same high caliber of acting and writing as well as art direction and directing. It is moving without being exploitive. It is true, compelling storytelling that will haunt you for a long time to come.

The headlines about the genocide in Darfur in the Western Sudan will have a new unsettling meaning for you.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where you can find a listing of past Crystal Heart Award winners as well as other Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Extraordinary and incredibly moving
azcoppen13 January 2006
I watch upwards of 300 movies a year and use IMDb like a fiend, but only this movie has ever compelled me to register and comment. "Shooting Dogs" is a BBC Films/UK Film Council film about the genocide in Rwanda that was ignored whilst the international community pontificated about the language used to describe what was going on (i.e. "Acts of genocide" vs "genocide"). The film focuses on the desperate plight of 2500 Tutsis seeking shelter in a school-cum-UN military compound. It goes some way to explain the history of the situation and the events surrcounding the genocide.

What makes this movie special is that a number of the production crew are survivors of the Rwandan crisis, and are telling their own stories. As macho as i would love to sound, i had tears in my eyes and felt the pain, hopelessness and indignation - and those are things that no director can claim to have brought to life for me in anything i've watched until now (the closest was probably the magnificent "Mysterious Skin"). Nothing is held back, and not should it be. The horror here is not graphic close-ups, but the shocking disregard for life that leads to the slaughter of newborn babies with machetes, the abject impotence of the UN and how tribal loyalties can turn the closest of friends into murderers.

For those who have lived in Africa (as i have), what is portrayed here is all too real. Like is said by one BBC reporter in the movie, in the Balkans the people were white and they could have been your own mother, but in Rwanda its worse than numbness - its just another dead African. Ignore your preconceptions, assumptions and instant reaction to skip to the next title because its not familiar, it wasn't in the cinema and Hotel Rwanda didn't appeal to you much. The impact this movie had on me was that profound, and i'd urge anyone to watch it to understand what happened there.

And when the credits come up and you've had time to think it over and resolve that it should never happen again, i'd say one word to you: Darfur. It just happened again only recently.
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This is the best film I have seen in a good many years.
deemacleod13 December 2005
I haven't seen a film that evoked such emotion in so long I had forgotten that it was even possible for a film to do so. Even in film school there weren't many that left me with such a memorable impression. I saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival and I actually left the theatre shaking. I had the distinct pleasure of talking to Mr. Caton-Jones after the screening and it seemed to me that this film was a real cathartic piece for him as well.

For anybody that doesn't remember or wasn't around during the actual genocide and doesn't remember the news stories about it, it doesn't really matter....this film shows more than what they would have showed on CNN of CBC or any of the major news networks. This goes beyond those stories and tells you what really happened....even if it is only a small glimpse at the bigger picture.

I saw Hotel Rwanda and I thought it was a brilliant film, but I also thought that it was a tad bit "Americanised", which is fine I suppose, it gave the public what it usually wants...a good story but with a bit of a love story at it's centre which I thought detracted from the story of the genocide. This one has a definite European or even Canadian film-making feel to it. Hotel Rwanda also didn't show you everything...this is not a spoiler but a warning: be prepared to see everything, Caton-Jones doesn't leave anything to the imagination.

I was also disappointed though I suppose not all that surprised when I heard that this film had gotten a distributor in every country but the US. All you Americans reading this...appeal to whatever power you have to to get this film screened in a theatre near you. You are missing out on not only a cinematic gem but a little piece of history. I for one cannot wait to see this film in theatres again soon.
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How Many Acts of Genocide Does It Take to Make a Genocide
claudio_carvalho31 March 2007
In April, 1994, the airplane of the Hutu President of Rwanda crashes and the Hutu militias slaughter the Tutsi population. In the Ecole Technique Officielle, the Catholic priest Christopher (John Hurt) and the idealistic English teacher Joe Connor (Hugh Dancy) lodge two thousand and five hundred Rwandans survivors in the school under the protection of the UN Belgian force and under siege of the Hutu militia. When the Tutsi refugees are abandoned by the UN, they are murdered by the extremist militia.

After the magnificent 1994 "Hotel Rwanda", the world has the chance to see another testimony of the genocide in Rwanda, where eight hundred thousand (800,000) people was killed between April and July of 1994 under the total absence of protection or intervention of the United Nation. This powerful and touching true story was filmed in the real locations with the support of the survivors of the massacre. John Hurt is fantastic in the role of a suffered Catholic priest that dedicated his life to the people of this poor country, and Hugh Dancy is also amazing with an excellent interpretation. There are magnificent lines, but I personally was moved when Joe asks Christopher how much pain can a human being take, when he sees the mother being killed by machete strikes with her baby son by one killer of the militia. The questions about God's role the children ask Father Christopher are also great. The feelings of Rachel about the differences between the situation in Bosnia and in Rwanda are very sincere and the sacrifice of Christopher is something very beautiful in this film. The last question to the UN representative "- How many acts of genocide does it take to make a genocide?" in the procedures, regulations, viewpoint of whatever from UN closes this sad but recommended movie with golden key. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Tiros em Ruanda" ("Shots in Rwanda")
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Powerful, Touching and Human
MrChi30 November 2005
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.
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A horrifying experience; rightfully so.
MacAindrais2 March 2006
Shooting Dogs (2005) ****

Many people will compare this to last years "Hotel Rwanda," and say that much of it is just the same thing again, and naturally, they will claim it to be less a film than its predecessor. However, let me state now, this is the movie that 'Hotel Rwanda' wanted to be; was too timid to be; absolutely needed to be and wasn't. I had a problem with 'Hotel Rwanda.' My problem? It didn't do the true events justice, and was too toned down. "Shooting Dogs" does not shy away from the violence; it embraces it and serves it to us as it needed to be. Far too many people know far too little about the Rwandan Genocide because they were too busy watching the OJ Simpson trial. And far too many Americans are unaware of the role their government played in it. They could have stopped it by admitting it was genocide. Instead they danced the verbal line and vetoed the UN.

Here is a rare film that could have had marginal acting and with any other plot been a stinker, and yet because of its powerful message would have gotten a pass from me. Thankfully, everything is in the right place. John Hurt does a great job as Father Christopher, and Hugh Dancy is fantastic as Joe, a young idealistic teacher at the old priest's school. The extras, many of whom were survivors of the genocide, are all very credible as well. Another thing is that this movie was actually shot in Rwanda. This provides that old "voodoo of location" that Werner Herzog is so fond of. The school and the city are not and should not be backgrounds. They are characters in their own right.

As mentioned, the film does not shy away from violence. The violence is horrifying while still not being horror show gory. There is not necessarily much blood here, but there is hacking. Even without the deaths on screen, it still went further than 'Hotel Rwanda' did by showing the bodies everywhere all the time, and was not afraid to show the hacked bodies of children, and even show them dying. Some might say this is too macabre. To those people I say wake up to the ways of the world. Stand up and take notice and stop your moaning. If you ignore it happens then you do nothing productive in preventing it. The film also does something that most films don't do today - show the church in a positive light. This is not a Christian themed movie or anything like that, but it is a film of love. And the priest loves the people in his school, and so says he that even though his children do wrong, God still loves them, and so he suffers with them.

The horror of the Rwandan Genocide is on full display in 'Shooting Dogs.' And while I have hacked on 'Hotel Rwanda' in this review, it is a movie that I still admired very much. It made a compromise according to its makers so that it could be seen by younger viewers. This is admirable, but sometimes when you compromise you weaken your product and this is what I feel happened. 'Shooting Dogs' picks up the slack, and you really should see both films, along with a third, 'Sometimes in April.' This movie is deeply affecting, and has a deeply important message. There is love everywhere in the world, even in chaos. Often you don't realize it is there until conflict arises. 'Shooting Dogs' is one of the best movies of the year, and its unfortunate that so few have seen it.

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What a film!!
autobenelux20 November 2006
This film is worthy of all the plaudits that one can offer. it is not a film from a large Hollywood studio and thus will not merit for any Hollywood inspired praise. Nevertheless John Hurt performance is without doubt Oscar worthy . The film is factual without being inspired by the normal heartstrings of sanitised music which usually accompanies movies such as this. It is even superior to Hotel Rwanda which again was wonderful but takes the issue even further particularly as it applies to the so called civilised UN nations. If ever there was a need for a real UN this film exemplifies it. Camera work is excellent and acting right through the cast is credible and believable without having to employ any token players from the extensive list of TV actors and the like.The Belgian Officer is so real and his frustration there for all to see.

In summary a film that everyone should see and form an opinion.There is no hard pressed "hit you in the face" moralising, but one would have to be non human not to appreciate the essence of this story. 10/10
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Deeply moving
benzuidwijk21 March 2006
It is rare to see a film that has as great an impact as Shooting Dogs. The shocking story of the massacres in Rwanda is told in a setting that is both personal and global.

Great acting, a fine script and good pace... a level of craftsmanship worthy of the magnitude of the subject of this film.

On rare occasions, a story is so shattering it needs only to be toned down for audiences to take it all in. This true story needed to be told, and for us to hear it. Hopefully, after seeing this movie, you will not be as pessimistic about the future of Central Africa as I've become.

The closing credits are well worth sticking around for.
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More Accurate Portrayal
mkoopman1 September 2006
There has been an ongoing argument over which is better, "Shooting Dogs" or "Hotel Rwanda." I don't know if there is an answer, but for the record, I've found that being 24 years old, this film appeals to me more than "Hotel Rwanda" did. I think this is largely because it focuses on the "save the world" mentality of youth, when things are not really that easy to explain or resolve. It also offers some light moments and comic relief that ease the burden of such an unpleasant true story. However, friends of mine who are over 40 years old, and who perhaps relate more to the businessman/father/husband character of Don Cheadle in "Hotel," disagree.

Despite all that, the people I know who work in Africa and even parts of Rwanda have said "Shooting Dogs" is a much truer portrayal of the way things really were at that time and that many Rwanadan natives don't share such a pleasant view of the Don Cheadle real-life man.

I think if it moves you to be a better person and stop genocide somewhere in the world, it shouldn't really matter which film is "better." For me, "Shooting Dogs" will never leave my heart or my mind.
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Very well done
me-ga-sa18 October 2010
I have no idea why a person would rate this less than 10. It was done very well, well chosen actors and good performances. The story was portrayed very realistically. I was truly connected with the characters and was moved by this story. It is sad that this movie is not that popular when there is so much popular crap going on. This movie shows reality and makes us think about important issues, about us, humans, and the humanity. I read the reviews which were negative and the reasons were too weak. I was thinking how easy it is to make people fear of some group and make them kill others without thinking... Why people don't think deeper, why the mass is so shallow (I have these thoughts whenever I remember Hitler and his "work")... I felt angry with UN soldiers, there can be no justification for them. Why were they there at all?.. And we call ourselves civilized people when these things happen... all the massive wars were not so long ago... and people still fight... use physical force instead of using the brain... sad...
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A late homage to the Rwandan Tutsis
davidshort1015 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I have just watched this film on DVD (it was a bit of a scandal that in the UK it was shown in very few cinemas and for a short period) and read the user comments so won't repeat points already made. I have a personal interest as I witnessed the aftermath of another Hutu on Tutsi massacre some hours after it happened in Burundi just over ten years after the events of 1994. The film is excellently and movingly made. Certainly it was better than Hotel Rwanda which would have been improved if made on location in Rwanda like Shooting Dogs instead of South Africa. Unlike the users comments, the film DOES not make too much heavy weather of blaming the UN. Do your users want troops under UN command NOT to follow their UN mandate and act on their own volition? What would people's reactions have been if the UN troops had opened fire on the Hutus? White troops from the former colonizing country, Belgium, using high powered assault rifles on black people with machetes? And the film made a very incisive point through the words of the hard-bitten BBC woman reporter who admitted she wasn't moved to tears when she saw murdered Rwandan women, unlike in Bosnia 'where she could have been my mother' but here 'she was just another dead African'. Somehow I don't think a US-made film could have been so honest - ie not hypocritical - about white people's reactions to dead Africans. Nor does it over-demonise the Hutus - there have been cases of Tutsis massacring Hutus, after all. I think in the end this is a moving homage, if a little late, to a people that almost disappeared from the face of the earth. The end credits showing laughing, happy Rwandan members of the crew who had suffered terrible horrors and family losses are a tribute to the human spirit, particularly the spirit of Africans who suffer so much, and should make us be more grateful than we are for having been born in countries where these things don't happen...I don't say can't happen because as we know it happened in Europe in former Yugoslavia not so long ago.
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This film should be mandatory viewing for anyone over the age of 15
james_norman198111 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The civil war and genocide of 1994 in Rwanda remains one of the major unknown catastrophes of recent times, despite the European colonial mistakes that were mostly responsible for it. In just a few months the majority Hutu population slaughtered almost a million of the minority Tutsi people in an act of barbarianism practically beyond comprehension. Although the world was well aware of what was going on, with an UN contingent present in the country from the very beginning, we did nothing to stop this horrendous atrocity from happening. In fact, when the possibility arose that Western people could be at risk we simply cut all links and ran, hiding behind sanctions and rhetoric as the Tutsis were slaughtered. Of course the complexities of intervening in a civil war meant that rash action had a very real possibility of inflaming the situation, with a not insignificant number of countries neighbouring Rwanda less than enamoured of the Tutsis themselves. Nevertheless, our inactivity remains as a black stain on the conscience of the West, particularly the UN. Shooting Dogs shows us a very human perspective of what we allowed to happen.

It starts with the relatively calm and peaceful lives of Joe (Hugh Dancy) and Father Christopher (John Hurt), the former a GAP student teaching in the Rwandan capital, the latter a Roman Catholic priest. Joe is a well off young man trying to give something back to the world while Christopher is an established ex-pat and someone who has seen a little of what can happen during a coup d'etat. They run a school and church in a compound guarded by UN troops who are observing the recently formed system of rule whereby power is shared between the Tutsis and the Hutus. In the school the predominantly Tutsi students have little to worry them and there is no sense of us and them: the groundsman Roland is a Hutu and everyone seems perfectly at ease with him... And then the Hutu Rwandan president is killed when his plane is shot down.

Building up to this we have the occasional moment of concern. Some consensus is happening whereby all Tutsi homes have to be identified. Hutu politicians are making ominous noises. Hutu children think nothing of throwing stones at a 'cockroach' Tutsi and the captain in charge of the Belgian troops of the UN (Dominique Horwitz) seems nervous about the situation, particularly his mandate for when he can engage the enemy: he is only to fire if fired upon and if he wants to use his heavy machine guns he requires written confirmation from the Secretary General of the UN...

What happens next is the stuff of nightmares. Shooting Dogs offers little explanation of why the massacre occurred, although there are allusions to the previous Tutsi dominance of many years where the Hutus were little more than slaves. Regardless, with the death of the President, the Hutu people rise up as one and begin to slaughter their Tutsi brethren. It makes for grim viewing, though nothing we see is particularly gratuitous. In fact, the calmness of the Hutus as they go about their genocide is far more disturbing than the savageness one might have expected. Added to this are the transparent attempts at duplicity by a Hutu minister which indicate there is more than mere racist opportunism at work.

Within a day the Hutus are all up in arms, called by national radio to destroy the supposed Tutsi aggressor. With nowhere to go many of the Tutsis are slaughtered. Some make it to UN controlled bases where, in the case of this film, Father Christopher insists they are given shelter... but how long can Capitaine Delon remain in position with his troops, especially after the Tutsi Prime Minister is slaughtered, along with her UN guard...? The meat of the film concerns Joe and Christopher's attempts to impose some sort of order on their chaotic surroundings. They achieve tiny miracles to fuel their hope and that of the people around them: finding some medicine for a sick child for example. But their every success is instantly dashed as the Hutus gather around the school, simply biding their time till the inevitable UN pull out. The monstrous, carnival spirit of the Hutus is particularly abhorrent, as they sing and dance in anticipation of the slaughter, blowing whistles and waving their weapons in the air.

We, the audience, are left in little doubts as to what is going to happen, and the slow realisation that dawns on Joe and Christopher is almost as painful for us as it is for them. Based on a true account, shot on location and staffed by many survivors of the massacres, Shooting Dogs pulls few punches. From a woman hacked to death while clutching her new born child to the mere second's hesitation before the Hutu man buries his machete to silence the baby, this movie chills and saddens in ways far beyond any fictional horror. The fact that it grieves more than it sickens is thanks to the low key direction and, mostly, restrained performances throughout. Neither Hurt, Dancy or anyone else allows themselves to cut lose into monologues, instead they try to contain their emotions so that no one else might see the fear they feel until, finally, we have the great question that the two men must answer: do they stay or do they go when the troops finally leave? To stay is to die at the blade of a machete. To go is to suffer the awesome burden of the survivor. But at least you will survive to tell the rest of us what went on...

This tragedy happened, it was reported to us and we read it, yet we simply tut tutted and turned to the sport section of our newspapers. Now, with films like Hotel Rwanda and Shooting Dogs we are finally being shown just what we ignored. It should practically be compulsory for us to view it.
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Man's Inhumanity.
rmax30482331 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
More than 800,000 Rwandans were systematically killed over the summer of 1994, most of them Tutsi and pro-peace Hutu. This film is about the experiences of a young man, Hugh Dancy, serving as an intern at a technical school in Rwanda. The school, encapsulated in fences, is run by a Catholic priest, John Hurt, and serves as a temporary base for a UN military contingent, led by the rigid Belgian colonel Dominique Horwitz.

What we witness is the increasing pressure of rag tag "militias" outside the fence on the mostly Tutsi students and staff at the school. The assassination of the Hutu president is blamed by the radio and newspapers on militant Tutsi. Even a sensible young Hutu, an aide to Hurt, comes to believe the prevalent interpretation of events. Hate fills the air. Americans should be familiar with this sort of thing by now.

The Tutsi refugees flood the school grounds, justifiably terrified. The militia outside are cheerfully hacking people to death with machetes, including women holding babies. Ten Belgian UN soldiers are murdered. No one is safe. The tension grows so great that the Catholic priest twice uses a word we don't often associate with Catholic priests. In my opinion, it's a better movie that the similar and highly lauded "Hotel Rwanda." I'll just add a couple of observations.

The usual format for a story like this is that it's told through the eyes of heroic whites who come to the aid of Africans or African-Americans. You'll find that template here. I didn't find it condescending or offensive. The African performers have plenty of screen time in important parts, the whites don't succeed in saving the blacks, and this is a movie about a small part of the tribal warfare, a kind of microcosm of the whole. It could have been about the political situation instead of the effects of the killing on a single community, but that would have been a different and far more complicated film.

There are dead bodies in abundance and pools of blood but they aren't trivialized by being made more shocking than they need to be. Nobody's head rolls across the floor. The violence is almost all in medium shot and partially hidden by objects or shrubbery.

We see the militias angrily attacking their victims and at the same time cheering and, inevitably, some of the street riots in American cities come to mind. But any such comparison is unjust. The violence in Rwanda was wholesale and deadly, leading to the deaths of about 20% of the population. Besides, there is little reason to feel superior on racial grounds. A good deal of footage exists of white people dutifully wiping out other white people on ethnic grounds.

The role of the media isn't really made clear enough in the film. The role of the media is often underplayed in the interpretation of historical events. As Will Rogers said, "All I know is what I read in the newspaper." But, again, the focus of the film is not on explanations but on consequences. The consequences are so clearly tragic that we really don't need the lugubrious sound track to cue us about our emotions.

The international community was caught unprepared and uncertain whether to interfere and, if to interfere, how to do it? If we don't intervene, what do we wind up with -- white guilt? The United States was particularly recalcitrant. The memory of our humanitarian efforts in Somalia was all too vivid. The use of the word "genocide" was prohibited by spokesmen in Washington, long after it became clear that that was precisely what was taking place. See, if you acknowledge that what's going on is actually "genocide", how can you possibly justify inaction? It's a tragic story and a saddening one, but not a cheap one. It doesn't cast the Hutu as benighted savages and the Tutsi as heroic self-sacrificing heroes.

In a way, that's the central problem with the events we're shown. There were so few heroes.
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Deeply Moving
DrkHuggzHorror29 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This the first movie about Tutsi slaughter that i've watched; I usually watch documentaries about this terrible point in history. John Hurt is magnificent in this role. In fact, magnificent is too little an adjective to describe his portrayal of Christopher. This film isn't about the true gore of the genocide but more about the anxiety, the impending doom. With the Hutu looming on the outskirts of the school grounds you truly feel how trapped and defenseless the Tutsi were. I liked how they didn't exploit what happened there! Its an excellent movie, and made me cry. I wasn't too happy with the unspoken feelings at the end of the movie, however. I really thought the teacher should've begged Mari's forgiveness for leaving her behind but he never did. It was obvious she felt no animosity towards him though.
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A Strong Movie
Rodrigo_Amaro13 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"Shooting Dogs" is a movie based on the true story of two dedicated mens and their will to help several Rwandans during the conflicts between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes in 1994. Michael Caton-Jones director of "Rob Roy" tells the story of Christopher, a priest (John Hurt) and Joe, a English teacher (Hugh Dancy) and their commitment to the Rwandans refugees surrounded by a dangerous group in a school. Their mission is to do their best that they can to save everyone's life.

For those who doesn't know the conflicts between these tribes here's a short summary. In 1994 the power was controlled by the Hutu tribe. In the same year a peace process was in development and the UN was sent to Rwanda to assure that peace would be assured. But the president of Rwanda died in a plane crash and the Hutu started a military coup persecuting all the Tutsi. A genocide happened in only a few months and UN forces couldn't do anything because their orders was to evacuate all the foreigners living in the country and only shoot if they were attached. Thousands of Tutsi were killed during this dark period.

In the movie the main characters are trapped in a school along with a Captain (Dominique Horwitz) and the UN soldiers, and thousands of refugees, including many Joe's students such as Marie (Clare-Hope Ashitey). UN Forces can only impeach the Hutu entrance in the school, and that disturbs the priest and Joe because outside of the school and the church walls there are many killings happening in front of them and no one can't do a single thing to stop it. In one of the most emblematic scenes of the movie after returning of a dangerous trip to get some medicine for a sick baby, the priest is warned by the Captain that the dogs must be killed because they were eating the decomposing bodies of the victims. The father replies to the Captain: The dogs were shooting at you? No, so you can't shoot the dogs because you have to follow with your mission and your mission is only shoot if the other side shoot you. That's why the title "Shooting Dogs".

It's a very strong and powerful movie, sometimes sentimental, but quite controversial. I watched because I wanted to see a different point of view on the same subject of movies like "Sometimes in April", "Hotel Rwanda" and the documentary "Shake Hands with the devil: the Journey of Romeo Dallaire" all of them are accounts of the genocide in Rwanda. All great movies, very similar to each other. The main difference here is that we seen the point of view of white characters. An English teacher, an English priest, an french captain and a BBC reporter are some of the persons involved in the tragic events. We seen their different reactions to all the deaths, the desperate ways to help people or to criticize and compare kinds of genocide like the BBC reporter, played by Nicola Walker, tells to Joe. Depending on your social and personal views you might hate her character when she says to Joe that the killing of people in Bosnia was more serious and shocking than the killing of "just Africans". This scene emphasize many hypocritical behavior of well established countries. Sad but truth.

The director made a wonderful job here, leaving a soft movie in the beginning with some light and funny moments, and then like a dramatic symphony he was adding more dark moments, creating tension in every time that Joe or the priest went on searching a person they know or the medicine for the baby. John Hurt has another good moment in his career with this movie, playing the helpful, warm, man of faith whose help is needed in every possible situation, a courageous man. Hugh Dancy once again proved to be a great actor. He's in comedies such as "Ella Enchanted" and in dramas like "Shooting Dogs". Even when the movie is bad such as "Evening" is great to see that someone is doing a nice job. Here, playing the young and idealist teacher who fears that his life's in danger but he's still wants to help everybody because it's the right to do and since he was a fortunate child who had everything he wanted he wants to share his joy and experience to the less fortunate Rwandans. It's an outstanding movie that didn't had the attention that it needed by time of its release in cinemas. But TV and DVD will help to spread its message. 10/10
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Best film I have ever seen - my tear ducts ran out of tear water by the end of the movie.
sweetdreamer51215 January 2010
Where do I start.

It has been a very very long time since I have seen a decent film. The last film I felt so touched and moved by I had seen was the pianist and the (harvey) milk film from 2008.

Those 2 fantastic movies aside, this film absolutely wiped the floor with its emotional attachment. Being of African descent myself, rocked me with even more tears and sympathy watching this film.

The film is set in the genuine places all the genoicides and massacres hasppenned. Many of the actors in the movie were there at the time of the genocide in 1994. Afterall this is based on a true events.

Watching this film truly immersed you deeply into the conflict of 1994. You truly feel like you were there and unfortunately powerless in being able to change what has already been so dramatically written into history.

I felt so guilty that I, like many thousands if not millions of people living in the West had very little idea of what had happened in Rwanda. Granted I was only 11 years of age at the time; such a potent event in history deserves to be remembered by the world as a whole and never forgotten, especially by those who played little but an obvious participation in the events that occurred.

The acting/cast and soundtracks are all faultless in taste and selection. I have not only never been so moved but never cried so much in one movie.

It is only when you watch a movie like this you realise how so for granted you take your life and opportunities bestowed upon us here in the UK.

The producers/actors/directors should be applauded for making what will be remembered at least in my heart as one of the best films in movie history. Such a pity that it will never get the worldwide acclaim even if silently, it truly deserves. Perhaps this is a reflection of the world we still live in. I honestly believe with time this will become a timeless classic and grow notorious as more people find this treasure in their local movie store.

Buy it, rent it...just make sure you watch it.
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It was 1994, the President of Rwanda was just killed, and mob rule was threatening.
TxMike8 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
An alternate title for this movie is "Shooting Dogs", which we begin to understand as the movie goes forward. As bodies of the dead began to mount up, dogs had to be shot to keep them from eating them.

This movie covers the same time period in 1994 as the excellent "Hotel Rwanda." During when most of the killing was done, about 800,000 had been killed. This movie covers events where perhaps 2,500 of those were killed.

John Hurt is Father Christopher, Catholic priest in a Rwandan technical school for the kids. There is a fence and iron gates around it. When the president is killed by the insurgents, townspeople who fear for their lives head for the school, which already had UN "peace-keeping" troops inside. By order of Christopher, the people were let in.

Hugh Dancy is young man Joe Connor who teaches at the school.

The story centers upon the survival of these people inside the school grounds, while we see hundreds outside being killed if they did not belong to the correct race. It is a very difficult movie to see, but worth a viewing as a way to stay aware of what can happen around the world.

SPOILERS: The UN troops had orders not to shoot unless they were fired upon first. So, even though they witnesses senseless killings, they could do nothing. Eventually military trucks came to take away all the whites, but the native Rwandans were left behind, to be slaughtered. Only very few survived, and some of those participated in making this movie.
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Better than Hotel Rwanda
cjperisho9 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The genocide in Rwanda is news to few, if anyone these days. Films about it, such as "Hotel Rwanda" (an excellent film, I would add) are not really news either. However, last night, I had the great honor of watching a film on just this subject that slipped through the fingers of American cinema. "Beyond the Gates" is quite honestly, one of the best films I have ever seen.

The film centers around two men from the UK, rather than on certain Rwandans, as we would expect. One is Joe (Hugh Dancy), a young man from the UK who has come to Rwanda because he feels he can do some good, maybe somehow make a difference. He is full of youthful energy, compassion, belief in his ability to do something to make Rwanda a better place, and most importantly, complete naiveté as to what is really going on around him. The other is Father Christopher (John Hurt), an old Catholic priest whose face, weathered and worn by the pain, injustice and brokenness he has witnessed in the world, belies the profound Catholic faith and hope in the cross of Christ that make him so powerful a character. Both men live and teach at the Ecole Technique Officielle, a secondary school for Rwandans, which is protected by an entourage of Belgian UN peacekeeping soldiers.

As Dancy points out in a special features interview, the film is different in that it doesn't just thrust you into the horror of the genocide. Rather, it begins, much as Dancy's own character does, from complete naivety, evolving slowly into total realization of the atrocities being committed quite literally just "Beyond the Gates" of the ETO. While there is a long and bloody history of tribal warring between the Hutus and Tutsis, the film opens in a time of relative peace. Our first glimpse of the conflict comes in a scene where Joe is outside the gates, and comes across several Hutu men taking a census of the all of the Tutsis in the area. Shortly thereafter, the news comes through that the Rwandan President has been killed, and a Hutu uprising ensues. That night, the gates of the ETO are pressed hard by some 2500 Tutsis seeking refuge in the gated school grounds, and protection from the more than adequately armed UN stationed there.

Over the course of the rest of the film, the genocide begins to unfold, in all its ugly hatred. We first begin to see it as Joe makes a number of trips outside the gates. The first is to pick up a father and his daughter, Marie (a girl who has grown up to fast, faced with the hell around her, yet who is still trying to make sense of it all, particularly from a Christian worldview), one of his students. On his way to their house, his fears mount as he is stopped at a roadblock by Hutu men with machetes, steeped in crimson, and they are only compounded when he finds the house empty. However, this time, his fears are abated when he returns to the ETO to find them safely there, having taken a back road. Another trip finds Joe at another roadblock, stopped by a Hutu man whose clothes are saturated red, blood still dripping from his machete, a broad smile across his face. This man had been with them at the ETO, a friend. With each passing trip, the death toll rises, the reality of the genocide slices deeper into the minds of Joe and viewer alike.

I'll not go into more details of the events so as to not give away too much of the plot, but the point is, an ugly beast has reared its head...slowly, terribly, mercilessly and with great power. Christopher, though well accustomed to this ethnic strife through years of service in Rwanda, witnesses all new levels of human depravity, leaving him to utter in shock, "I've not seen this before".

This is a profoundly moving and powerful film. It is, despite a few Hollywood hiccups of cheesy portrayals of Christianity, in fact a genuinely deep and faithful film. Christ is truly present here. There is a scene where Joe tries haphazardly to explain the idea of the Real Presence in the Eucharist to a young and confused, though very curious Rwandan boy...unfortunately, the scene is actually one of the cheesy moments...but it nevertheless ushers into the viewers conscience this idea of the presence of Christ, even as these people walk and live and die in hell on earth. The most powerful scene in the film comes near the end, and while I refuse to spoil it for you, know that it makes a profound statement about just that fact...the reality of the Real Presence of Christ, in even the darkest and most horrid of places.

"Beyond the Gates" is sweepingly thought provoking. From grappling with one of the timeless human questions, 'How can a loving God let such terrible things happen to His people?', to challenging the unwillingness of the UN to act, instead hiding behind debates over phraseology ("Acts of Genocide" vs "Genocides," etc.) even as gross human rights atrocities are committed literally right before their eyes, to even the apathy and ignorance of whites, Americans and Europeans to the situation, one cannot help but just sit as the credits roll...convicted, shamed, appalled, truly a way only an exceptionally good and very rare film can manage. I read critiques that it was too focused on the whites, rather than the Rwandan people...but I think that they missed the whole point that the director was shooting for. This film is meant to shock us and call us to action. There are similar conflicts going on all over Africa even as I write. Who will we be this time? Father Christopher...or God forbid (and quite literally so), will we echo the impotence of the UN?

(from my blog at
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A story which deserves to be told
tiny-tinkerbell24 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I bought this film after seeing Hotel Rwanda, and I thought Hotel Rwanda was shocking.. nothing could have prepared me for seeing this film.

It is so well acted, and a credit to the people involved. John Hurt and Hugh Dancy both deserve awards for their performances.

It was quite a violent film, but it was not gratuitous, or particularly graphic. It was necessary.

My 'favourite' scene, is where Christopher goes to the convent as he has every Monday for 12 years, only to find the nuns brutally raped and murdered. This spoke volumes to me, and made me seriously question how I view the world. To think that anybody could do that to another human being forced me to remove my rose tinted glasses and face up to the fact that the world is a hideous and ugly place sometimes.

I greatly admired the character of father Christopher because in spite of all he had seen, he was still able to love those who had committed such wrongs. This is a lesson in itself, and I believe that he was right in saying that God loves us all, but he doesn't have to like our choices. It gave me a small bit of comfort to believe that God was there suffering with every one of the million dead.

The saddest part of the film however, is realising that although this is a dramatised version we are watching, it was somebody's reality. The 2500 people who were murdered at ETO would have been left just how it was portrayed in the film, battered, and broken.

The real life stories at the end are fascinating in themselves, it is amazing to see how much people can live through, such as the man who hid in the cess pit, or the man who hid under his murdered relatives in order to survive.

It really puts everything in perspective.
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Not bad but flawed...
mattsteel10119 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I have two main problems with this film: The first and most important, was that I didn't connect with any of the characters on an emotional level. Although I could allow myself to imagine what it might have been like to be there, I wasn't made to feel that way by the film itself.

Secondly, was the whole 'Blighty' thing. I am British myself and cringe when I see these cliché character traits of ours portrayed on the screen.

Hugh Dancy who played Joe Connor stank. I mean badly, in a Keanu Reeves sort of way. He imparted a real hooray-Henry feel which was not contained by Michael Caton-Jones (whose Scandal is an excellent film). I know Joe's character was supposed to be like this but... it left me feeling a little repulsed.

John Hurt gave a good performance, why wouldn't he. Of note I think was the performance by Dominique Horwitz who played Captain Charles Delon. His role was the most authentic and I felt real empathy towards him.

Back to the 'Blighty' thing. (for those who don't know, Blighty is a term used by the British to mean Britain, home, but in a very empirical way) Yes, from the moment Joe uttered the line, "but Kigali's that way mate", I knew I was in for a rough time. This was quickly followed by the cheeky chappy BBC cameraman's line, "Oi, where's my f**king beer?" Oh Lord. Then Joe on the payphone in Kigali, "listen mum, this is what rush hour in Kigali sounds like..." I expected Jamie Oliver to roll up on a scooter with a basket of fresh fruit and veg, "Oi Oi! What's going'on 'ere then? On the dog and bone to yer old ma? Caaamm over mine later, I'll cook us up a Ruby wiv deez fresh Rwandan veggies... Ta ta!" And off he rolls on his 'Mod' scooter. But that didn't happen.

Yes, then the whole emotional scene between Joe and the BBC girl (she was good though, Nicola Walker) where he talks about his reasons for being in Rwanda, how he is just trying to say 'thanks' for his privileged upbringing. Again, I know this was his character, but you can't help feeling old Hugh would be exactly the same sort of self-congratulatory type in real life! The Christian thing - well, one of the central characters is a priest so there's no getting away from it but... your main characters carry your theme, your message and what was that in this film? Be a good Christian, tame the savages. A bit dubious in this day and age... a bit neo-Christian actually.

What else... oh the music. From the get go, it's, 'you will be sad here - cue music' you will be very sad here - cue music.' Don't burden me with sorrowful music without first allowing me to create a deep connection with the characters - basics of film-making, surely? The music is good, it's just its use that is at fault.

The cinematography was wonderful, by Ivan Strasburg. That guy has worked on a lot of great films over the years and he has done a superb job of photographing this movie. It reminded me in places of Satyajit Ray's photographer, Subrata Mitra. Very good.

So yes, overall, an engaging work but flawed in various ways. If the subject interests you, see Raoul Peck's "Sometimes in April", a very good film. All the character's are Rwanadan and played by a great cast. The directing is far superior to Shooting Dogs and it doesn't have that liberal guilt feeling about it. It's more African. It stars Idris Elba who has an excellent presence.
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A young know-it-all realizes he knows nothing.
nathan-yeo16 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is told through the eyes of a young teacher at a catholic school, watching as the RAWANDAN genocide un-furls around him.

The movie starts off with a brief explanation about the past history and rivalry of Rawanda. Then it jumps to the story as told through the eyes of a young idealistic "NEW-COMER" a young teacher who doesn't take life or the situation too seriously. As he and the driver approach a road-block he plays around with his drivers I.D. not realizing that this is a serious moment and that if the driver can't identify himself as being of the right tribe to the soldiers they'll be killed. And thats how he treats the unfolding story of chaos and unfolding around him. Suddenly realizes that every Rawandan (including his driver) is involved and that the Europeans soldiers and tourists cannot and will not help. The media cameras cannot stop machete's, and there's too many machete wielding militia-men too shoot. the title comes from the armies captain saying he's going to shoot the dogs eating the dead-bodies around his compound, but won't shoot the Militia-men that are killing people around the compound. Mainly because they haven't fired at the soldiers yet. Finally he realizes the hopelessness of the situation and the guy who tells the evacuation team that he wants to give up his seat for one of the intended victims, flees with his tail in-between his legs, rather than face immanent death with the school kids he's promised not to leave behind.

It's more of character study, and a come to Jesus moment for one character, than a story about the genocide in "RAWANDA". This movie didn't have to take place in RAWANDA, it could have taken place any one of the Genocidal hell holes going around this world at any given time.
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not for the faint hearted but a superb film
gunnyhighway2 April 2006
for anyone thinking of going - if like me you're interested in real life movies and you like these sort of films it's a must see. its a similar theme to Hotel Rwanda only far more graphic. i felt that was one of HR's only downfalls - that it didn't hit home hard enough, but by god this one does.

there's nothing that i didn't already know in this film, but it doesn't make it any easier to understand no matter how many books/films/documentaries i've seen on the issue. it's one of those films where you're watching wondering what you would do in a similar situation but come away at the end of it thinking i just don't know. would you sacrifice yourself, would you fight back, would you run - impossible to say.

what's definite is that the plight of the people being hunted would haunt you til the day you died whether that be in rwanda or in old age if you were one of the very few lucky ones.

it doesn't make easy viewing, but I'm glad i went. it's well made in my humble opinion and captures the brutal executions in all their horrific splendour.

i wont ruin it but some of the key makers of the film were tutsis themselves and they are pictured in the credits at the end. one of them has particular relevance to me as he's wearing a glasgow celtic top, my team and he looks as happy sa anyone I've ever seen. i think he lost 30 members of his family in the genocide.

well worth seeing but if you're easily affected by what this world can be like or you're the type of person who tends to avoid such films because they are 'depressing' then avoid it like the plague. me, i thought it was excellent.
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Well done movie on a modern day tragedy
tastyhotdogs8 April 2009
Another wifey pick, another African movie. If I had a dollar for............

"Shooting Dogs" is not a movie about people that go around shooting dogs but the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994. The film is set around a small Catholic school that becomes a shelter for many seeking refuge. Based at the school are a British teacher (Hugh Dancy, in his most powerful role since "Basic Instinct 2"), a priest (John Hurt, in his finest work since "Mr Forbrush And The Penguins"), some European tourists, the Rwandans and a small team of UN soldiers. The reason for the war is the desire of the Hutus to rid the land of Tutsis. The situation across the land becomes horrific with thousands being killed daily. The group at the school has their hope taken away bit by bit, beginning with the news the UN will not attack oncoming soldiers unless in their own self defense and the evacuation of any Westerner who might be of some help to their cause. Will they escape? See it to find out.

I didn't go in with much expectation but this was a really powerful film. John Hurt as the priest was excellent and the glue for the film. The story was strong but besides Hurt the cast was pretty weak, especially Darcy with his annoying little head shakes and all. A remarkable story of a people that were tragically deserted by the larger world. In all 800,000 were killed in just 100 days. Well worth seeing and one of the people films on an African story you'll see.
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overwhelmingly powerful film
Buddy-518 June 2008
"Beyond the Gates" (aka "Shooting Dogs") is a shattering true-life drama set during the Rwandan genocide of 1994 - a holocaust in which over 800,000 unarmed Tutsis were brutally massacred by their gun- and machete-toting Hutu neighbors simply for being "different." This harrowing and heartbreaking film focuses on a Catholic priest and a young American teacher who find themselves caught up in a human tragedy of unimaginable proportions when a large group of terrified Tutsis flee to the school for safety and protection (a comforting but, as it turns out, utterly impotent U.N. "peacekeeping force" has also set up shop there).

Comparisons to the earlier, better-known "Hotel Rwanda" are as an inevitable as they are irrelevant, for "Beyond the Gates" is a searing and unforgettable movie in its own right, filled with indelible imagery and pulse-pounding suspense. The brilliant screenplay by David Wolstencroft (based on the book by Richard Alwyn and David Belton) focuses as much on the moral dilemma taking place within the souls of the two white men as it does on the unspeakable tragedy occurring in the world outside. Both men, utterly powerless in the face of such a monumental event, are forced to question whether the religious dogma that they espouse so readily in times of peace has any real efficacy or relevance in times when the very fabric of humanity seems to be coming apart at the seams. Director Michael Caton-Jones has provided scene after scene in which characters - both major and minor - are forced to re-examine their commitment to themselves, the people around them and the belief systems they've adopted to get themselves through life. The movie also points out just how shamefully the outside world acted in turning a blind eye to what was happening in that country, refusing to step in at any point to try and bring the situation under control, and then proffering lame excuses to justify its inaction once it was all over.

With many actual survivors of the holocaust working both behind the camera as technical assistants and in front of it as extras and minor characters, the film brilliantly recreates the events with devastating immediacy and accuracy (the movie was also filmed at the actual locations where the incidents themselves took place, greatly enhancing its verisimilitude). Moreover, John Hurt as the priest and Hugh Dancy as the teacher deliver soul-searing, gut-wrenching performances that get to the heart of what it truly means to be one's brother's keeper.

Acts of such unmitigated savagery and brutality, especially when conducted on this massive a scale, are so incomprehensible in their horror that it would be virtually impossible for any single work of art to successfully grasp them. But by personalizing the issues and placing the events within the context of a series of universally identifiable moral dilemmas, the makers of this extraordinarily fine film have perhaps come as close as is humanly possible to achieving that end. Don't miss it.
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The sound of the whistles
jmoore964-124 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Both Hotel Rwanda and this film stuck with me in terms of the sounds. In Hotel Rwanda it was the metallic grate as they dragged their pangas (machetes) along the road. In this film it was the whistles blowing. Both sounds signaled that death was approaching. It must have been utterly terrifying for the victims to hear those sounds and know that they were about to be killed.

The scene where the man asks the UN soldier to kill them rather than leave them to be tortured was the most difficult for me. When the soldier refused, the man then begs him to at least kill the children, to save them from suffering. One can only imagine how that soldier felt. He had to say no, but knew what he was leaving all those people to face when the terrorist swept in.

This film, Hotel Rwanda and Sometime in April all complement each other in telling the horrors that the rest of the world ignored.
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