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Last Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
New film revisits Rwandan tragedy
A scene from Shooting Dogs
Shooting Dogs stars John Hurt as a Catholic priest in Kigali
British-made film Shooting Dogs has revived memories of Rwanda's 1994 genocide, in which about 800,000 people lost their lives.

The new picture, which cost 3m to make, tells the story of a group of Tutsi refugees who sought shelter in a school compound guarded by Belgian peacekeepers.

It shows the troops being ordered out, shooting into the air to clear their exit from the Ecole Technique.

The film's star, John Hurt, plays a priest who apparently stayed with the refugees.

But the film has been criticised for deviating from real events - no priest stayed at that school - as well as traumatising survivors and portraying white characters as heroes.

Too late

At its premiere in the Rwandan capital Kigali earlier this week, survivors of the massacre responded emotionally to the harrowing portrayal of what happened 12 years ago.

John Hurt
I knew about as much as anybody else and was as much to blame for my lack of action
Actor John Hurt
"It's difficult to find the words to describe how I feel after watching this film," genocide survivor Specoise Kanyabugoyi told the BBC.

"Each of the people I watched reminded me of the people we lost."

Actor John Hurt, who plays priest Christopher in the film, acknowledges too little was done too late.

"I knew about as much as anybody else and was as much to blame for my lack of action," he says.

"It wasn't really reported with any huge urgency - this little country in the middle of Africa that was having a lot of trouble."

The accuracy of the way Shooting Dogs portrays the events has also been called into question.

Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the genocide
Belgian troops who were at the school said they would not allow the priest to stay, leaving the Tutsis to fend for themselves.

The film's producer Dave Belton admits there was no white priest who stayed in that particular location.

"But it's the case that white priests stayed in Rwanda for several months and rescued a lot of Rwandans," Mr Belton says.

"I knew one of them who was very much the inspiration for this story."

The film, which included hundreds of Rwandan extras - some of them genocide survivors - captures the horror of what happened for those who lived on, including Specoise Kanyabugoyi.

"There were no emotions, no feelings. I was numb like a tree," she says of the terrible events of 1994.

Survivors of the genocide react to the film

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Country profile: Rwanda
09 Feb 06 |  Country profiles



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