In Cinemas March 31

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Script Supervisor's Thoughts

Today's post come from Pat Rambaut, Script Supervisor of Shooting Dogs.

Six months after my partner of 25 years had major heart surgery I had a call to ask me if I wanted to go to Rwanda to work on 'Shooting Dogs.' The operation and looking after him for six months was the most scarey thing I've had to do.

A brief visit to London to meet Michael Caton Jones, the director followed. Michael describes to me the essence of what David Belton writes in his diary of March 20th 2004, when he and McJ visited the ETO school.

I decided to go.

After what I had been through in my personal life, I felt strong enough to cope with a film whose story was about so fragile a subject as genocide. After my meeting with the Michael I knew it would be a story well told.

My job as a script supervisor on a film is all about the script - the story. I need to know the story in detail by the time we shoot. I even time the script which entails visualising the action and speaking out loud the dialogue of all the characters. A lot of this I do alone. (the memory of 'Blind Flight' and Beirut and needing to escape out into the streets to remind myself I was not back in the Beirut of l985 comes to mind).

I arrived in Rwanda with less than a week to shoot. The week was full to capacity and little time to think. Documentary footage set up in a corner of the busy production base, for cast and crew to watch for reference, I avoided. Knowing I had to somehow distance myself from the reality., not sure how I would cope. The difference to other films I had worked on was of course this story wasn't fiction.

A couple of weeks in to shooting we had two days off. By now I was feeling the need to learn more about what had happened. And maybe why. This was when I visited the Kigali Memorial. I can still visualise that whole exterior covered with polished granite under which I was told 250,000 children, women and men lay dead. A glimpse into the two open tombs showed rows upon rows of carefully draped coffins, some tiny. They were still finding bodies, hence the open tombs.

My lasting memory too being the room of Portraits of tiny children and babies all with equally horrendous stories of how they had been hacked to death. Such a huge waste of tiny human lives.

By the end of our visit our Guide thanked us for coming and asked us to tell the world what had happened. They just don't believe us. I began to know why I had chosen to come here.
Each one of the European crew who went out to Rwanda were very special people. It was only by being with such people did we cope.

I suppose luckily our days were very full, (getting up at 4.30am in the dark!) We had so much to shoot in so short a time each day had little free time to think beyond than that moment. But yet there were always reminders. Some of the scenes with many extras were especially hard to shoot.

One of these was one of the final scenes in the film. It was a very silent crew who filmed the aftermath of the massacre. Of course we knew the people on the ground, covering as far as the eye could see of the ETO school, were not dead, but it brought us so close to the reality of what happened in Rwanda in 1994.

Shortly after this scene, maybe even later that day we shot the scene that precedes this - the Interahamwe surging forward to the school. Afterwards I was walking up the drive towards the ETO. The end of a long day. All the extras playing the Interahamwe noisily rushing past. My inner uneasiness at their presence feeling real (I was not alone in this feeling!). One of them tapped me on the shoulder. Startled I turned round. A young man stood there, a big smile on his friendly face, 'Can I help you with your bag?' We walked back towards the school together. His English not good, my Rwandan worse. We were back in 2004!! And we were telling a story.

As has been said before on this website, a story that needs telling, if only to help one tiny bit to stop all the fruitless killing that is happening in so many places in our world today in 2006!!

-Pat Rambaut, Script Supervisor.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Ken Barham on Rwanda Now

Today's post was contributed by Ken Barham, Trustee of Rwanda Aid and Former Anglican Bishop of Cyangugu, Rwanda (1993 to 2001).

The film SHOOTING DOGS shows graphically some of the horrors of the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda. It shows the utterly hopeless mandate under which the United Nations contingent were operating in Rwanda at that time. There was a brilliant question asked by Father Christopher to the Captain in charge, who had made it clear that his mandate only allowed him to use his powerful weapons if he was fired at first. When the killing was so clearly visible outside the gates and the dogs were eating the bodies, the Captain said he was going to shoot the dogs. Father Christopher asked, bursting with anger, "Have the dogs shot at you?" "Have they shot at you?" You can use your guns to shoot dogs but not to protect these terrified people.

The film shows the terror for the Tutsi people as they saw the hordes with machetes and clubs, and the terrible choices some Europeans had to face. I am very conscious of that as I left in February 1994 and was spared that decision. Would I have left or would I have hidden? I would certainly have had a house full of Tutsis, as did the Catholic Bishop (a Hutu).

It is important that people are made aware of the horrors of the genocide, but it is also important to bring to the forefront, the sitauation in Rwanda NOW. Rwanda is no longer a dangerous place with gangs like the Interahamwe roaming about the country. I feel strongly about this because I have worked in one of the most vulnerable parts of Rwanda from September 1994 until 2001 and then visited once or twice a year since then. I have watched the country move from total chaos in 1994, when all the banks were cleaned out and all government and other property taken, including my roof, doors, windows, cupboards etc; through sorting out administration, setting up commissions for Unity and Reconciliation and a Constitution, to elections at a lower level and then for Parliament and President. I was there last year in October and again in November and will be there again in May this year. Rwanda is incredible! The city of Kigali is being cleaned up remarkably. I have just come back from Honduras and seen rubbish thrown out all along the streets. President Kagame led his Ministers through Kigali picking up all the plastic bags and banning their future use. Trees and flowers are being planted everywhere and new buildings going up like mushrooms. In addition, Tutsi and Hutu are living and working side by side everywhere and nobody is going out to kill anyone (even if that feeling is still there for genocide survivors).

That horrific massacre happened in 1994. Those who have visited Rwanda recently will know the enormous effort that has been made, not only to restore the devastated country, but to move steadily from chaos to creative development, from devastation to democracy. Such strides have been made that inward investment has brought a brand new Five star Intercontinental Hotel to Kigali to match the Hotel Mille Collines and the Umubano Hotel, all of which are hosting international conferences. Rwanda NOW is a very safe and beautiful country. Scores of visitors go to see the gorillas in the mists of the mountains. Some of them travel to the National Park in the east to see a huge range of African animals. Some travel south to the university town of Butare and visit the National Museum. Wise people also continue on the tarmac road through the Natural Forest of Nyungwe with its thirteen types of primate, its rare birds and orchids. After the forest the country opens out to miles of beautiful green tea plantations before arriving at the small town of Kamembe in Cyangugu. Very wise people stay at the Peace Guest House on the lakeside of the beautiful Lake Kivu! Here they can get a Rondavel with two bedrooms, sitting room looking at the lake, and bathroom with flush loo and hot shower. It is safe to travel anywhere in Rwanda today and it is a beautiful country, the Land of a Thousand Hills. Every visitor will get a very warm welcome. The genocide certainly happened and, of course, there are still deep scars, but the courts are dealing with justice. The three ethnic groups, the Hutu, the Tutsi and the Twa, live side by side in every village and town and work together in every business, and study together in every school and college. If ever there was a perfect example of Reconciliation, Rwanda is it! The people, the government Commission for Reconciliation and Unity, and the Churches, are all working at it.

If you want to prove it, go and see!

-Ken Barham

For more information about visiting Rwanda, click on the Rwandan Tourist Board website.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A cinematographer's view

Today's post was sent to me by the cinematographer of Shooting Dogs, Ivan Strasburg:

I was born and grew up in Africa ( if you count Durban as Africa - its a bit more like Surbiton -on -Sea ) and over the years spent a lot of time on the continent working on documentaries, covering the area comprehensively. So, on my first trip to Rwanda I was pretty sure of what to expect particularly in light of recent events. My first surprise was the airport, high tech and well designed, and my second the hotel, well appointed beyond my wildest dreams.

The first impressions in a post holocaust society are purely subjective- how old was that one at the time? is he a Hutu ? is she a Tutsi ? Is the one group fraternizing with the other and are people walking in the street and recognizing mass murderers? Its difficult to sort through all of this; and then you stop thinking about it. I was in Cambodia only a few months after the Khmer Rouge were slung out ( by the Vietnamese lest we forget ) and I found the atmosphere not dissimilar to that of Rwanda, though in the case of Cambodia the murderous regime only recently dispatched. It is puzzling trying to make sense of the apparent normality whilst ignorant of the undercurrents, the situation I suppose for all outsiders.

It was also shocking to realise that our production constituted such a disproportionately large part of the economy. At times it occurred to me that perhaps we were the economy. All manner of citizenery congregated at the gates of our hotel desperately importuning for work anyone they thought part of the crew. This was thoroughly depressing particularly as time went on and casual employment on the production less and less. We, in our department anyway, took on people who wouldn't take "no" for an answer. Of course employing a Rwandan meant that you also became responsible for every aspect of their lives; well those aspects which charitable organisations and social workers would generally figure in. What could one do when the discrepancy between their income and yours was so vast.

There was never going to be anything like the sort of efficiency which one gets and expects in Hollywood or the UK but I was surprised at how well everything worked. The ADs particularly were magnificent at clearing people off the streets when necessary, and organising and dressing hundreds of extras on a daily basis, seemed from my perspective, to proceed smoothly. In any case when cock ups did occur, and they did with far less frequency than one would expect, how could you yell at someone ( if that was your desired technique ) knowing the horrors that that person had been subjected to only recently, and more than likely still dealing with the consequences. I think that a lot of us developed a new set of perspectives.

I think our proudest achievement was having the cab section of our (hero) vehicle constructed on the back of a similar truck, (someone has a photo of this) which enabled us to shoot conversations in the cab while driving along. This made possible angles which would have been impossible without grips and a pile of equipment, none of which we had. Mickey Reeves,our gaffer, also designed and had constructed a frame with which we were able to suspend a light from a crane; this crane we spotted completely by chance. Although this wasn't as high we would have liked, it was a lot higher than anything else available in Rwanda.

All in all everyone benefited from working on the film and for those who had never been to Africa previously, this was as good a place to start as any. It was a story that needed to be told and hopefully shames those politicians who were involved in the tragedy. Somehow, I doubt it.

Regards Ivan

The Tuesday Night Preview

On Tuesday night, the first major preview screening of Shooting Dogs took place in Central London. The 200-strong audience was largely made up of journalists, representatives from NGOs and charity organisations. Director Michael Caton-Jones was in attendance to provide an introduction to the film.

The response to the film so far has been fantastic, following on from the great acclaim that it won at the London Film Festival last year. The film has been heralded by a number of organisations who have recognised the importance of the film as a valuable tool in raising awareness of contemporary genocide. Please read below some of the comments we have had so far:

1)"I thought the film was absolutely superb. Certainly the most provoking and disturbing film I have seen in a very very long time."

Thomas Russon, People & Planet

2)"The film was brilliant in all aspects, narrative, casting, and most importantly impact. It was a beautifully crafted film."

Jo Ash, GAP (Gap Activity Projects)

3)"I went to see this film yesterday and was incredibly moved by it. It is such a powerful and well-made film and explores very well the choices that people have to make faced with unspeakable evil. I read the notes later and found the genesis of the film most interesting; filming in the location where this massacre took place gave a poignant immediacy to the film. Working in Rwanda as an aid worker and having lived there in 1977, I have always had a special place for that country in my heart and to see the genocide portrayed so graphically,but without gratuitous violence was really moving. It brought back memories of happier times but also trying to understand why this horror took place; I’ve often wondered what happened to some of the people I knew. Where was God in all this is a question I’ve often asked and I don’t have an easy answer, though I’m sure there were some brave people who did what they could to protect others. But certainly it was a time of unspeakable evil.

I thought the acting was very good and it must have been hard for some of the people, actors and technicians, to relive those terrible events. All in all, it was a courageous film to make and one that will stay with me for a long time."

Anne Bonger, Aid Worker in Central Africa

4)"An extraordinarily Powerful Film...a must see"

Baz Bamigboye, The Daily Mail

5)"The film left me feeling shattered. It was so real felt I was right back there in the middle of the madness. The film is the most powerful portrayal of that terrible time. What happened in Rwanda wasn't just about Rwanda - it was about all of us. The film brilliantly captures that central truth. A Brilliant and Powerful film"

Feragl Keane, BBC (reporter in Rwanda in 1994)

6)"I have rarely seen such a powerful and important movie and really believe that it is vital that as many people go and see it when it is released in the UK."

Joost van der Zwan Communications Officer London School of Economics (LSE) Crisis States Research Centre

Hugh Dancy and Claire-Hope Ashitey

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Diary 3.

March 25th 2004

An extraordinary meeting in Kigali. At a restaurant I meet the celebrated documentary maker Anne Aghion – who is over here to make a film about Gacaca – a new judicial process where Rwandans indicted for genocide can confess their crimes and, judged by their peers from the local community, would then be released from jail to begin their lives again. With Anne is Jean-Pierre, her researcher and driver. Like so many, Jean-Pierre had a remarkable story of survival. He had hidden himself in a cess pit for fourteen weeks and evaded the killers. Next to him is his wife. J-P tells me that she had spent eight weeks in a camp at a place called Kabgayi. The camp was supposed to be protected by the local Catholic Bishop; in truth, hundreds from the camp had been pulled out and killed by the genocidaires and the government army. It dawned on me that this was the camp that Tom and I had discovered and reported exclusively on. And here I was looking at a woman who had been in the camp with her children, fighting for her life, whilst we had gone around, in the early dawn with our camera recoding their plight and hoping not to alert the army to our presence. It was a heart-warming and humbling moment to see her there with J-P, still alive having survived that terrible place.

-David Belton (Producer)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

General Roméo Dallaire Talks

Tonight, General Roméo Dallaire will be talking at an event arranged by 'Facing History & Ourselves' at The Royal Society of Medicine, London. Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, now retired, was Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. He now holds a post on the Canadian Senate. Since the publication of his book, 'Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda', General Dallaire has become a passionate spokesperson about the humanism necessary today in leadership and conflict resolution.

'Facing History & Ourselves' is doing extensive work in Rwanda currently helping them develop a new history curriculum and training hundreds of teachers to use it. You may know that 75% of the teachers in Rwanda were either murdered or imprisoned during the genocide so the rebuilding of the teacher network is essential.

General Dallaire and the work of Facing History challenge us to explore profound moral questions. What are the challenges of being given responsibility without authority? What are the consequences of a military person following his conscience instead of his orders? Are some lives worth more than others? How can we expand our "universe of obligation" to include people we don't know or even recognize? Why should we care about events that go on half way around the world?

A full report of the event will be posted later in the week.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Diary 2

March 20th 2004

I am in Rwanda with Michael Caton-Jones, our director. We are here to see if we can shoot the film in Kigali. The plan is to do better than that – to make the film at the Ecole Technique Officielle – the school where the massacre took place. We start to meet Rwandans who had survived the massacre. First – Karasira Venuste – introduced to me by my researcher, Geoffrey Mutagoma. It was a terrible story of Rwandans coming to the school in the early hours of 7th April because, with UN troops stationed at the school, they believed they were safe, protected. But then, five days later, the UN left and the Rwandans were abandoned. Within hours of the UN leaving most of the 2,500 people who had sought refuge at the school had been killed.

Karasira tells the story with such honesty and dignity. He was one of the lucky ones – most of his family had survived. He had lost an arm when a grenade exploded near him and had been miraculously rescued by soldiers from the predominantly Tutsi rebel army, the RPF. Shining through the story was a sense of terrible betrayal he felt. How could the West, knowing what they knew was happening, leave Rwanda to its fate? Michael and I sat there, transfixed.

Afterwards as we walked round the school, Michael is murmuring to himself – his big frame getting all agitated. He can see it now – not just a script but a place and the filmmaker’s instincts are starting to manifest themselves in what he says. The school is a natural film set – not much has changed since 1994. Old engineering workshops still carried the scars – bullet holes in the walls, smashed furniture. Michael is an extraordinary guy – a miner’s son from West Lothian who left school at 15 and became a top Hollywood director. I can see that he has reached a moment of conclusion: we have to make the film and we have to make it here – in Rwanda, at this school. And we have to work with people like Karasira – to get their story out to a wider audience. “We just need to get these money men to understand that we’re making this film and there’s nothing they can do about it,” he says.

-David Belton (Producer)

Friday, January 20, 2006

View from the Crew!

Its been a fantastic first week on Shooting Dogs with over 600 visitors from all around the world! Our sister site Rwandan Survivors has also been very popular and both sites will be expanding over the coming weeks. Thanks for your continued support and interest.

Next week we will be publishing more diary entries from our BAFTA-nominated producer David Belton; news about the film; production photos and much more!

We still want to hear your views, questions and suggestions, so leave us a comment and keep coming back.

We received an interesting e-mail yesterday from Tim Vallings. Tim was an extra in the film and here he recounts his experiences and views of his time on the production and his two years in Rwanda...

My name is Tim Vallings and I spent two years working in Rwanda. Towards the end of my time in Rwanda, the Cast and Crew arrived to make Shooting Dogs. I got involved and was made to wear a blue helmet for the duration of their stay there.

I wanted to be involved because I spoke to my colleagues in Rwanda, all of whom were Rwandan - I am English - to get their thoughts on a film of this nature being made in Rwanda. Without exception, they agreed that if the impact of a genocide had gone fairly unnoticed globally, then perhaps a film made to target that very audience, might be a useful tool in the historical education of what occurred in 1994.

I loved my time in Rwanda; a paradox of complication, sadness, ambiguity, frustration whilst having joy, satisfaction and hope. It is the country that has had by far the most impact on me wherever I have lived. I got a great deal out of the country both professionally and socially.

This seemed an appropriate way of giving something back. Of making an effort to be a part of something that matters, however cynical someone might be about the impact of a film. I lived there and took the decision that it was an appropriate project to be a part of.

I left Rwanda a year ago and have been back once since.

Kind regards


Thursday, January 19, 2006


Our congratulations go out today to Shooting Dogs producer David Belton who has gained a BAFTA nomination for his work on the film.

THE CARL FOREMAN AWARD for Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or Producer in their First Feature Film.

DAVID BELTON (Producer) - Shooting Dogs
PETER FUDAKOWSKI (Producer) - Tsotsi
ANNIE GRIFFIN (Director/Writer) - Festival
RICHARD HAWKINS (Director) - Everything
JOE WRIGHT (Director) - Pride & Prejudice

Well done David!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

An incredible extendend family!
The cast and crew of Shooting Dogs.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Diary One

What drove me to write the original story of Shooting Dogs with my fellow writer, Richard Alwyn? Perhaps the best place to start is six years ago. It’s October 2000 and I am in a bar in Washington DC, drinking with Tom, my old friend and BBC reporter from my first trip into Rwanda. We haven’t seen each other much recently and there is plenty of news to catch up on. But Tom seems distracted, bored with my inconsequential chat. Then he leans over and looks at me. And asks a question.

The question feels as though it comes out of the side of his mouth, as though he was trying to throw it away into the smoky din of the bar, half hoping I might not pick it up. But I do. I hear it loud and clearly. Suddenly the bar doesn’t feel so companionable anymore. The laughter around us sounds shrill, fake. Tom asks, “Do you think we did a good job out there?” I look at him. Ever since I came back from the genocide in Rwanda six years before I have enjoyed the praise of my colleagues at work, my tour of duty out there worn like a medal on my chest. Now this. The ice twirls around my glass. I’m struggling for an answer - looking at Tom, trying to read in his face a motive behind the question. I almost feel defensive - what the hell kind of question is that anyway. He takes a deep breath, “Because, you see, I don’t think we did. We left and we should have stayed.”

As we talked, it felt as though a door had been flung wide open, that so much of what happened back then, that I had unwittingly – and thus expertly – buried, was now piling back through that door demanding re-examination. I felt scared – at having to delve about in dark places, and there was anguish too at having to revisit those scenes again. But mainly there was relief. Relief to admit something that I hadn’t had the guts to admit before. Tom was right. We should have stayed.

What had happened back then was that after our first trip into Rwanda – where we had witnessed some difficult sights and had been badly threatened by the genocide government as well as getting an exclusive report out that showed viewers how the Tutsi were being systematically killed – we had managed to get out of the country and head back to Nairobi. We filed that last report and then had headed back to the UK. At the time it seemed the right thing to do. Six years later, we knew we should have stayed out there and carried on reporting. I did manage to get back to Rwanda – as the genocide was coming to an end but I realised, as I sat in the bar with Tom, how terribly guilty I felt. I needed to get back into this story and write something that attempted to do justice to the terrible grievance I felt about how we, in the West, had betrayed Rwanda.
-David Belton (Producer)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Welcome to Shooting Dogs.

In the summer of 2004 we went to Kigali to make the film Shooting Dogs which tells the story of what happened at the Ecole Technique Officielle during the Rwandan genocide. It was an extraordinary experience for all of us. For five months we shared rich experiences and made lifelong friendships with our Rwandan friends who made the film with us. We all learnt much about Rwanda - its history and its struggle to move beyond its recent tragic past.

We hope that the film will spark debate and this site is an opportunity to join in and contribute. We really want to hear from as many voices as possible: to tell us what you think and to open up the discussion so that all of us can share our stories.

We have two blog sites running. This site will mainly focus on the making and the promotion of the film - here you will find all kinds of materials - including trailers and photo. The site will also contain diary entries and cast/crew testimonials from the remarkable team who came together to make Shooting Dogs . Our sister site (Rwandan Survivors) is designed to be a platform for those who wish their voice to be heard. It will include accounts of the genocide itself from its survivors and be a base for an interactive forum where the Rwandan Genocide and other crimes against humanity will be brought back into the public conscious.
-David Belton (Producer)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

This is the official website Blog for the feature film Shooting Dogs.

This site launches fully on the 16th January 2006 to raise the issues of the Rwandan genocide created in the film.

  • This blog will contain information on the making of the film.
  • Posts from the writer/producer David Belton
  • Comments from the Cast & Crew including director Michael Caton-Jones
  • Reports leading up to and including the Premiere.
  • Views from across the world including survivors of the genocide.

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