Sunday, March 19, 2006

shooting dogs... insult upon genocide?

I knew there was something up this morning when I saw the actor John Hurt, a co-star and director of new film Shooting Dogs on SKY News. They did not have the usual confidence of people publicising a new film, but seemed like they had come to defend the movie instead. Shooting Dogs is about a massacre that took place in a school in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. Part-funded by the BBC, the film places the broadcasting corporation's journalists in the centre of the action and in the words of some, portrays them as the heros. But those who were there at the time remember things differently, and that's just the beginning of it.

Makers of the film hope the fact that they filmed on location in Rwanda gives them an advantage over other movies like Hotel Rwanda for instance, which was shot in South Africa. During the making Shooting Dogs, some survivors of the genocide suffered flashbacks and were so traumatised that they had to be sedated. The cast replied that this happened only on one occasion, a defence that doesn't really help matters all that much. Oh, and the "Rwandans asked us to come and shoot this story in their country" - was another soundbite. You couldn't miss the euphemism... replace 'Rwandan people' with 'Rwandan government' that was obviously tempted by the money such filming would generate.

The more makers of Shooting Dogs defended their film, the more uncomfortable they looked and the more concerned I got. It turned out they'd been forced to come on television because The Observer newspaper (UK) was going at them on two fronts in today's paper. Opening the paper a short time later, I saw why.

The first piece - on page 6 of the new-look paper - is Anger at BBC genocide film by Alice O'Keefe. Even more forceful is the piece by Linda Melvern (who wrote the book Conspiracy to Murder. The Rwandan Genocide, published by Verso) on page 32. Melvern is damning. History? This film is fiction - she declares.


Blogger Nkem said...

I saw Shooting Dogs last year, during the London Film Festival, where the director gave a pre-screening talk about filming it. It all appeared to be done earnestly. This is actually the first I'm hearing of the controversy. I got the Sunday Times today and ignored the Observer (normally get both), so I'll check it out online.

6:23 am, March 20, 2006  
Blogger sokari said...

Haven’t read the piece you quote but one has to wonder about the motives behind the BBC in making this film which portrays them at the center rather than the Rwandan people and genocide. This is now the third film on the Rwandan genocide – Hotel Rwanda and Sometime in April which I felt was a far more African story than HR. I am tired of white men making films “their understanding” of Africa. How can you make a film in a language you don’t even understand and an experience you don’t have? Interestingly no one is talking about Moolaade, Sembene Ousmane's brilliant critique of patriarchal institutions in Mali and whose positive portrayal of the African woman as being a strong determined individual who is not afraid to stand up for what they believe in. It is possible that that would be too much for the European mind to see African womanhood as it really is - neither victim nor idol?

11:33 am, March 20, 2006  
Anonymous G Kendal said...

Some news on it.

9:03 pm, March 20, 2006  

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