Eye For Film >> Movies >> Shooting Dogs (2005) Film Review
Proof that this is a great film comes from the silence, which accompanies the closing credits. Nobody gets up, nobody rustles plastic bags and mutters, "Well, what was THAT all about...?" Everyone just sits quietly with their own thoughts and feels bad. I don't want to see this again. It upset me. Which is why I am recommending it to everyone.
On paper, this might not appeal. Genocide dramas aren't traditionally a popular choice for Saturday night at the movies, but this powerful, thoughtful and often enjoyable film should be a word-of-mouth success and pick up several awards on the way home, including a well-earned ornament for John Hurt.
Shooting Dogs tells the story of Joe (Hugh Dancy), a privileged nice boy from a middle-class family. For some karmic payback he's in Rwanda, teaching at a mission school, headed by Father Christopher (Hurt), whose idealism has long been crushed into pragmatism. Marie (Claire-Hope Ashitey), a wide-eyed athlete with a crush, is teacher's pet. The political climate soon takes centre stage and the focus shifts.
From its base on school grounds, the UN is monitoring an uneasy peace between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority. When the president is assassinated, the aftermath is a violent bloodbath of organised attacks on the Tutsis. The UN won't intervene, because they haven't been sent to uphold the peace, simply to monitor it. Whoever said words couldn't hurt? They have the power to kill.
Joe's lucky. Being English, he can leave. But wouldn't it be cowardly to abandon his friends? What's the right thing to do?
There are so many films about heroes, celebrating the difference one individual can make. It's a rarer achievement to show the humanity of heroism, to shine a light on that moment which can go either way, when the layers of bravado are peeled away and you come face to face with your own character, and maybe it's not quite what you hoped.
Shooting Dogs asks, "What would you do?" For most of us, the answer is nothing. And, although it raises questions about the burden of conscience and the limits of social responsibility, we're essentially let off the hook at the end.
It's shocking that a fictional story, based on true events, is more emotionally affecting than watching the reality on the news.
Go and see this. Feel bad. Maybe it won't be so easy to look away next time.Reviewed on: 15 Feb 2006