« Can't Win the Close Ones

The Gelflog

Eating Shoes at The New Yorker »


April 21, 2006

Does Shooting Dogs Lie?

Early this week, a Reuters published an article that states that many Rwandans are unhappy with the portrayal in recent movies of the genocide that took place in their country 12 years ago. In the article, survivors fault the films Sometimes in April and Hotel Rwanda for omitting important details about the origins of the tragedy and overstating the role of particular individuals. But it is in the criticism of a new movie yet to be released in the United States that the most damning claim is made.

Speaking to the reporter about Shooting Dogs, a fictionalized account of the tragic events that took place at a high school in Kigali, Wilson Gabo, a coordinator of Rwanda's Survivors Fund charity, states, "There was never a situation, not at that school or anywhere, where a white person refused to be evacuated. That is a pure lie."

Gabo is referring to the character of Father Christopher, a priest in the movie who decides to stay at the École Technique Officielle even after UN officials offer to evacuate all foreigners. Gelf emailed David Belton, the BBC producer whose account of his experiences during the genocide is the basis of the movie, to ask him what he thought of Gabo's claims. "The character of Father Christopher was based on a man I knew in Rwanda—a Croatian priest," Belton replied in an email. "He did stay behind and saved the lives of thousands of Rwandans. He almost certainly saved my life as well."

"You will have to ask Mr. Gabo not me why he said that," Belton adds. (Gelf has emailed the Survivor's Fund of Rwanda to ask for comments from Gabo. If he gets back to us, we'll update this piece.)

In a previous Reuters article, Gabo accused the film of retraumatizing survivors, some of whom suffered emotional breakdowns while working as extras during filming, which was done on location at the school. Other Rwandans, though, including President Paul Kagame, disagreed. "I think it is not the film that traumatises them but it's what happened to them," Kagame told Reuters, later adding, "The film as such is going to be a continued part of our memory relating to the genocide and I think that memory needs to be kept."

As for another claim made in the article, that the film does not place enough blame on church leaders for their lack of action in the face of genocide, Belton states that that was not the point of the movie. "The Church's complicity in Rwanda in 1994 is well-documented. As is the individual bravery of many priests—black and, on a few occasions, white. But our film is not about the Catholic Church. It's about humanity. The script wants to ask the question: What would you do faced with such an incomprehensible event as a genocide?"

Post a comment

Comment Rules

The following HTML is allowed in comments:
Bold: <b>Text</b>
Italic: <i>Text</i>
<a href="URL">Text</a>


- Media
- posted on May 21, 10

Shooting Dogs was one of the most impactful movies I have ever seen. Having immersed myself in the genocide for various reasons, and having almost lost all hope in humanity and faith in God, this movie for me restored both. I'm grateful to all involved for producing such a beautiful piece of art.

- Media
- posted on Apr 24, 15

I survived the genocide and many of my family members were killed or survived from ETO, I worked as video assistant on the sets of shooting dogs, it is one of the best and accurate movie on the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda

About Gelflog

The Gelflog brings you all the same sports, media & world coverage you’ve come to love from Gelf Magazine, but shorter and faster. If you’d like, subscribe to the Gelflog feed.

RSSSubscribe to the Gelflog RSS