Shooting Dogs Michael Caton-Jones

My hopes were not high for this film, which boasts not one but two heroic whitey leads in a sea of black Rwandans. And sure enough, the Caucasian pair of idealistic teacher Hugh Dancy and embittered priest John Hurt manages to hog the spotlight while dishing out exposition early on in the film.

The compromise stings but there’s no denying that the "based on true events” film manages to disquiet as the genocide ramps up and Tutsi refugees start fleeing to our heroes’ school-cum-UN-peacekeeper-base. It’s infuriating to watch as the peacekeepers sit idly by, claiming their "mandate” is to observe, not interfere, even as machete-wielding Hutus surround the encampment. Only when carrion-eating dogs pose a "health hazard” do they even consider lifting a trigger finger; only when whites are threatened do they offer to evacuate. And the dwindling supplies, improvised provisions and constant state of panic manage to test the mettle of both our leads, with one making a hard decision and the other ministering to his doomed flock.

One wishes for less awkward characterisation of the Rwandan characters (and less screen time for the names above the title); one also gets the feeling that Dancy’s out of his depth and Hurt hasn’t nailed his characterisation. But the white folks are the icing on the cake and the main event is the terror caused by the Hutu militias and the shocking refusal of the international community to do sweet F.A. about it.

It goes about as far as the social-issue genre can possibly be pushed and no matter its shortcomings it still manages to stun you into silence and send you out different than you came in. (Equinoxe)