MUTARE – Tears rolled down the cheeks of several young Zimbabweans during the screening of Shooting Dogs, a movie that depicts events of the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
The film was screening at Rainbow Theater in this eastern border city on Monday and will continue showing until this Saturday.
During the course of the movie, several people had tears rolling down their cheeks as they failed to come to terms with chilling scenes of mass killings of people by machete wielding militants.
The film is based on a true story of accounts of the genocide in which close to a million Rwandan from the ethnic minority Tutsis were massacred by Hutu militants.
The Hutu ethnic group consists of more than 80 percent of the population in Rwanda.
The film is based on a true story. An exhausted Catholic priest and a young idealistic English teacher find themselves caught in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. They must now choose whether to stay with the thousands of Tutsis about to be massacred or to flee for safety. The 2500 refugees were eventually abandoned and were all murdered by machete wielding militants.
Shooting Dogs, the film's title, refers to the actions of United Nations soldiers in shooting at the stray dogs that scavenged the dead bodies scattered all over the country’s roadsides.
Since the UN soldiers were not allowed to shoot at the Hutus that had caused the deaths in the first place, the shooting of dogs is symbolic of the madness of the situation that the film attempts to capture.
Those that watched the film in Mutare, Zimbabwe’s third largest city said they could not believe that such atrocities could occur in the presence of armed UN solders.
“Initially, I thought it was just one of those fiction films but when I got to know it was actually based on a true story I broke down,” said Tendai Matondo, a 23-year old man from Sakubva, a poor township in this eastern border city. “I cannot imagine the scale of indiscriminate killing that I watched in this film.”
Joice Mawoko, 21, from Murambi, an up market low density suburb, said she could not help but shed tears. “I have never imagined people can be that cruel to the extent of murdering others to such a scale,” Mawoko said.
Morris Gonda, 38, a community development worker, said events in Rwanda should never be allowed to happen again in a civilised world.
“It was a bitter lesson. Allowing barbaric to take control of any situation is very dangerous and a serious threat to mankind,” Gonda said, also failing to come to terms with what he had seen in the film.
The film was screened in the country at a time when the unstable political situation in Zimbabwe was increasingly being equated to that of Rwanda during the run – up to the genocide.
Romeo Dallaire, the retired Canadian solider who led a depleted UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda in 1994 told a recent peace and security workshop in Pretoria that the situation in the Darfur Region and Zimbabwe was similar to that of Rwanda in 1994.
Paul Kagame, the Rwandan President, whose rebel army stopped the genocide in May 1994 , and took over the country, also joined in saying the situation in Zimbabwe was dangerous and needed a quick solution.
Zimbabwe is going through an unprecedented political crisis which was worsened by presidential elections condemned by the international community as illegitimate. President Mugabe lost the first round to the opposition’s Morgan Tsvangirai but a run-off was called after the opposition failed to garner the required percentage to take office.
The run- off was marred by violence, murder and intimidation resulting in Tsvangirai pulling out and igniting an international outcry.
Mugabe, Tsvangirai and leaders of a breakaway faction of the MDC are engaged in talks aimed at solving the political crisis but a solution has remained elusive amid accusations and counter accusations by the negotiating parties.
In Shooting Dogs after the airplane of the Hutu President of Rwanda is shot down, the Hutu militias slaughter the Tutsi population. In the Ecole Technique Officielle, the Catholic priest Christopher and the idealistic English teacher Joe Connor lodge 2500 Rwandans refugees, under the protection of the Belgian UN force and under siege by Hutu militia. When the Tutsi refugees are abandoned by the UN soldiers, they are murdered by the extremist militia
The movie released in the United States as Beyond the Gates, is a 2005 film, directed by Michael Caton-Jones and starring John Hurt, Hugh Dancy and Claire-Hope Ashitey. It is based on the experiences of BBC news producer David Belton, who worked in Rwanda during the Rwandan Genocide. Belton is the film's co-writer and one of its producers.
Unlike Hotel Rwanda, which was filmed in South Africa using South African actors, the film was shot in the original location of the scenes it portrays. Also, many survivors of the massacre were employed as part of the production crew and minor acting roles.