On Thursday evenings I get round to thinking about what to put in this column.
As I headed off to the cinema last night I was pondering Terry Smith, the former armed robber who wished the Tonbridge robbers good luck on Newsnight. That provoked an angry response from many viewers. Or our report on how BitTorrent and encryption on the internet could aid paedophiles and terrorists. More outrage. Or observations this week that I've become a grumpy old man who looks as if he's going to burst into tears.
As I progressed to Peter Snow's Swingometer, David was covering the conflicts in Bosnia and, later, Rwanda
Then I got to the cinema and after about five minutes I decided I wasn't going to write about any of that.
The film was Shooting Dogs, a soon to be released British film about the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Newsnight has a special interest in it because it was the idea of, and was produced by, David Belton, who used to work on this programme.
Indeed David and I started on Newsnight as junior producers on the same day back in 1990. As I progressed to Peter Snow's Swingometer, David was covering the conflicts in Bosnia and, later, Rwanda.
No one did enough
His film tells the story of a young, idealistic British teacher - who I must say looks uncannily like a young David Belton - who finds himself caught up in the slaughter that followed the shooting down of the Rwandan President's plane in April 1994.
What's so powerful about this film is that the whole thing was shot in Rwanda, in the very location where the original events took place
It's all about the terrible truth that no one - well-meaning individuals, journalists, UN peacekeepers, the world - did enough to try to stop the killing of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis that year.
In fact it wasn't the first time I'd seen the film. At an earlier screening a few months ago I watched it with the then editor of the 10 O'Clock News, Kevin Bakhurst. As we emerged from the theatre after the heart-stopping final scenes, David bounded up to us to ask us what we thought. Incapable of speech without blubbing, we had to wave him away. We walked down the road for about five minutes before either of us could begin to discuss it.
What's so powerful about this film is that the whole thing was shot in Rwanda, in the very location where the original events took place. Many of the film's cast and crew are Rwandans who lived through and were terribly affected by the slaughter.
David Belton co-wrote and produced Shooting Dogs
It's almost incredible that it was possible to make such a film in such conditions, but perhaps even more incredible is that the premier of the film is due to take place at football stadium in the Rwandan capital Kigali in front of thousands of Rwandans, Hutu and Tutsi, later this month. If there's a dry eye in the house I'll be amazed.
The making of...
Newsnight has commissioned Fergal Keane, who memorably covered the genocide for the BBC, to report from Rwanda on the making of the film, what it took for the cast and crew to recreate those events, and how they will view the finished product.
That report will be on Newsnight towards the end of the month, and Shooting Dogs will be released in Britain on 31 March.
Newsnight will show a report on the making of the film in March
What disturbed me most about watching Shooting Dogs was the power that drama has to make you understand issues and feel emotions that news reporting - however powerful - rarely can.
No one did enough in 1994. 12 years on, films like Shooting Dogs might make people think and act differently the next time, whether they see it in Kigali, or down the Empire.
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Thank you so much for this piece. As a nation descended from soldiers, not convicts, as has been recently revealed, we got quite upset about Rwanda. Especially when we heard how it did in the heads of the boys in the blue berets to stand back and watch. We've got a few "walking wounded" over here who will be interested in his historic film.
Meredith Bishop, Melbourne, Australia
Congratulations! Excellent writing - I am touched - just reading the article chokes the throat. I sincerely hope humans will respect all life as guided in all religious scripts. Keep up the good work.
Ashok Gudka, Kenya
I'd like to watch the film, my hubby will like it more. But when is it going to reach my country, Nigeria?
M Ola, Lagos/Nigeria
We've been here before with the excellent Hotel Rwanda, which you did not mention in your piece. The bottom line is that the average man in the street might be affected by what they see, but the US, EU and China don't care enough to totally prevent another genocide taking place. There's already been proof of this in the Sudan. We had the UN debating and wasting time over whether to call it a genocide or not, while China didn't give a damn because of its business links with Khartoum. And all the while, Darfur burned. These films are worthy, but they will never make a difference. No one dared to send a military force into Darfur, because no one had the guts, and no one had any vital interests at stake, often the decisive factor, rather than a humanitarian one.
And 10 years from now, someone will make a similar film about Darfur. The BBC (with others) has been covering the situation in Darfur (I particularly remember Hilary Andersson's reporting early on) and also covered the Rwanda atrocities. Yet little was done at the time. Consider how many massacres / genocides (in addition to Rwanda and Darfur) there have been in the last hundred or so years that people (and governments) knew about at the time and did little about, only to express results later.
Alan, Chicago, IL USA
Amid all this liberal hand-wringing, lets face it, if any Western country had tried to "do something about it" they would have been decried by the same liberal wets as indulging in post-colonial interference. You can't have it both ways - you either set yourself up to be a global policeman and risk upsetting the wets (Iraq) or you sit on your hands and watch tyrants run amok (Rwanda).
Paul Holden, Towcester
Peter, your final paragraph: "...might make people think". How many times in my last 60 years have I read that from well-intentioned authors, film-makers, and programme makers? As an eight year old delivering newspapers in Cardiff in 1945, the Sundays had the Belsen liberation photographs on their front pages and throughout - I saw them at every letter box, they are etched in the memory. But that was not enough to make people think, (nor were the subsequent emerging details of the scale of the general horror), nor were all the other next-times: Uganda, Vietnam, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur and those still to be written up in independent Africa. It is not people who need to be made to think, it is the Kofi Annans, the delegates at endless conferences, fully wined and dined at their poverty-stricken populations' expense, the dealers in arms, the tolerated corruptions of "friendly" ruling cliques, who need to be made accountable. I shall not watch the film - it would tell me little about the human condition that history has not already taught. It would be lovely to think it made a difference, I am cynical enough to being resigned to see such news reported on TV in a one minute slot.
Roger Skinner, Bromyard
Unbelievable! You write a column like that, about how the world turned its back, and yet on Newsnight, you continually do precisely the same thing. How about Fallujah? Other publications and so many websites carried detailed eyewitness accounts of the US slaughter, yet Newsnight and every other news programme somehow managed to get by without one serious report. How many US "accidents" are there where innocents are killed? Actually there's no point even in my writing this as I know it will make no difference. I dare you to do one thing however, interview the authors of the Media Lens book on your programme. Fat chance!
Newsnight editor Peter Barron responds:
Newsnight has reported the allegations surrounding Fallujah on several occasions, including the special programme Allies on Trial. We also broke the story recently of deaths in US custody in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have invited Medialens to appear on Newsnight on many occasions, but they have told us they prefer to operate through the website rather than appear on TV.