Shooting dogs

I’ve recently started using Voddler, a movie streaming service. It’s easy to rent films online, and with a minor monthly fee you’re free of advertisement. When I say minor, I mean minuscule: they charge 10 cents per month to get rid of ads and get access to some films free of charge. I think it’s a bargain.

I thought I’d already seen quite a few movies and documentaries on the Rwandan genocide. I’ve read We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families by Philip Gourevitch and come back to the book on a regular basis. I even touched the topic on a very modest research paper in my studies of political science.

And then Voddler brought to my attention a film on the genocide that I haven’t seen yet: Shooting dogs. It’s a BBC production, released in 2005. I don’t know why it has escaped my attention. The interesting thing about the film is that it was actually filmed on location in Rwanda, not in South Africa, not anywhere else, but right there where it happened. Many genocide survivors were involved in making the film. The story is based on the experiences of David Belton who worked in Rwanda as a BBC reporter in 1994. After reading a bit more, I learned that one of the main European characters also has some background in real life.

What astounded me in the film was hearing the plea made by Rwandans, in the garden of École Technique Officielle, to the UN peacekeeping team in Kigali: before you leave us, could you please kill us? If not all, then just the children, please?

Can you imagine having to make a plea like that? And, can you imagine being the person receiving the plea and having to say no – knowing that when you leave, thousands of people will be brutally killed. The film has named the commander of UN troops something different, in real life it was the Canadian Roméo Dallaire. I was delighted to see one of my favorite actors Nicola Walker in the film. Her character, a TV journalist, delivered the other mind-stopping line: when I saw dead women in Bosnia, I thought each one of them could be my mother. When I see dead women here, I think it’s just dead Africans.

And here’s the disclaimer: I have no idea if a plea such as this one was ever made in reality, or if the real-life commander is the one they’re describing in the film, but here’s what I know: had I been in that situation, I would’ve lost my mind.

Just picture this in your head: cheering people surround you, closing the circle tighter every day, jumping up and down, screaming and shouting, only waiting to come and kill you with a machete. The complexity of it all is almost too hard to understand, but the reality has been vividly described in books and films.

I wonder if the rather recent concept of Responsibility to Protect will ever grow into action, preventing too many people from dying. We have a great principle, great concept, but will the nations of the world ever be able to make it work? It’s so easy to blame the UN, but what many forget is that the UN is only as strong as its member states allow it to be.

♥ In the meantime: Penelope Lively is lovely. Her book Moon Tiger was discussed in BBC World Book Club recently. I only listened to it yesterday when walking the dog by the sea. It was windy, dark and gloomy – and there was great conversation in my headphones. What is history, really? People trying to impose order on something where order does not exist.

♦ Song of the day: The Vaccines, A lack of understanding

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