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Last Updated: Monday, 26 July, 2004, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Movies revisit Rwandan genocide
By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Skulls in Rwanda
Rwanda recently commemorated the genocide's 10th anniversary
A string of new movies are to tackle the Rwandan genocide, the first major films to tell the story of killings of 800,000 people 10 years ago.

John Hurt stars in one, provisionally titled Shooting Dogs, which started filming at the site of a massacre, using survivors as extras, on Saturday.

Hotel Rwanda features US stars Don Cheadle and Nick Nolte in a story about a hotel manager who sheltered refugees.

And ...Sometimes in April is a TV film being made for US cable channel HBO.

Each portrays a different human story from the 100-day massacre, which involved militias from the Hutu ethnic group on the rampage after the assassination of the Hutu president on 7 April 1994.

It was a profound story at the time - it had a profound effect on me witnessing the genocide
David Belton
Shooting Dogs producer
In Shooting Dogs, John Hurt plays a jaded, ageing priest opposite King Arthur star Hugh Dancy as a young idealistic teacher in the capital Kigali.

The characters are fictional but the setting is real, according to producer David Belton.

It is set in a school where Belgian United Nations peacekeepers were stationed before pulling out - leaving refugees who were later killed.

The movie is being filmed in the same school where the massacre took place, using survivors in the cast and crew.

"I'm surprised by how many people want to be in it," Mr Belton told BBC News Online.

John Hurt
John Hurt is to play a priest in the Rwandan capital, Kigali
"There are some survivors who have declined - that's something that they don't want to revisit because it was hugely traumatic.

"But there are people who also lost families and even limbs who are actually going to be in the film.

"I'm wary about trying to explain why they want to do it - some of them possibly see it as cathartic, some of them see it as a fantastic thing to do, and others see it as a means of earning some money."

Mr Belton was working in Rwanda as a television producer for the BBC's Newsnight programme during the genocide, and co-wrote the story behind Shooting Dogs with Richard Alwyn.

The teacher character is partly based on his own experiences, Mr Belton said.

"It was a profound story at the time," he said. "It had a profound effect on me witnessing the genocide and I had for years been working out what to do with it."

HBO's Sometimes in April
HBO's Sometimes in April recreated the killings for film
The film's title is still not final because some backers believe it may put off cinemagoers who do not know what it means and think it could refer to animal cruelty.

Shooting Dogs actually refers to a scene in the film where peacekeepers are not allowed to shoot dogs that are eating corpses because they are told they can only shoot at things that have shot at them first.

In the other films about the genocide, Ocean's Eleven star Cheadle portrays the true story of hotel owner Paul Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda.

Mr Rusesabagina used his influence as a prominent Hutu businessman to shelter more than 1,200 people, using his phone to fax Bill Clinton and call the King of Belgium and the French Foreign Ministry.

Terms of Endearment actress Debra Winger plays a US politician in ...Sometimes in April, about a former Rwandan army officer coming to terms with the events of 1994.

Traumatised

When it began filming in April, counsellors were on hand to comfort survivors who were traumatised by its re-enactment of the killings.

A French movie is expected to be based on Gil Courtemanche's book A Sunday By the Pool in Kigali, centred on a love story between a Canadian journalist and a local woman as the turmoil unfolds.

And a film is being made of Shake Hands with the Devil, a book by Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian UN officer who pleaded in vain for international help.

Former CNN cameraman Nick Hughes made the first big screen account of the genocide, 100 Days, which was released in 2001.


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