Shooting Dogs (aka Beyond the Gates) (2005)




Director:     Michael Caton-Jones. 

Starring:     John Hurt (Christopher), Hugh Dancy (Joe Connor), Dominique Horwitz (Capitaine Charles Delon), Louis Mahoney (Sibomana), Nicola Walker (Rachel), Steve Toussaint (Roland), David Gyasi (François), Susan Nalwoga (Edda), Victor Power (Julius), Jack Pierce (Mark), Musa Kasonka Jr. (Boniface), Kizito Ssentamu Kayiira (Pierre), Clare-Hope Ashitey (Marie).

true story of a Catholic priest and an English teacher caught in the 1994 Rwandan genocide


The English teacher gets some help in class with his students for the Catholic priest.  The priest say the smart black girl in his class has a crush on her English teacher.  Kids start calling her names.  The teacher asks her what they were calling her and she says all Tutsi cockroach she tells her teacher. 

Something is happening at the airport. The troops are told to head out.  The President's plane has been shot down.  The priest thinks this may be a coup.  They hear machine gun fire.  The close the gates.  The soldiers start filling up sand bags to build better defensive positions. 

Sister Isabelle.  Should we call her?  No, she's been through this before. They now hear what sounds like mortar fire or artillery. 

There are people at the gate.  Lots and lots of them begging to come in.  The priest comes out.  He opens the gates to the people. They are very frightened.  Hutu men on the streets with guns.  The teacher grabs a Hutu man to translate for him from a Tutsi couple.  But they will not talk to a Hutu. 

The military commander says that his orders are not to let the school be used as a haven for the Tutsis.  They are not to enforce the peace, but only to monitor it. 

7april 1994.  The news says the Tutsis were killed by the Hutus because the Hutus feared they killed their President. 

A bunch of white people come.  The military commander says they must have a place with facilities. 

The English teacher drives through the streets looking for refugees.  He goes to the house of Roland and Marie.  He sees a primitive kitchen set up.  He looks around the corner.  Only the dog is there chained up.  The teacher drives on.  He reaches a Hutu blockade.  He see Tutsis being badly treated.  The guard lets him pass because he tells them he is a teacher.   He arrives back at the school.  The priest tells him that Roland and Marie have arrived at the place. 

Charles the commandeer says there may be a need to evacuate.  He wants to talk to the whites.  An former government official comes to say that these killing are all planned.  They plan to wipe the Tutsis out.  Marie helps Joe translate.  A woman tell them of the Hutu atrocities against Tutus women. 

The Priest gives mass for the people.  Joe wonders if this is the appropriate times for that and the priests says the people need it in these times of stress.

Streets completely deserted in Kigali, except for the soldiers.  The Hutu counselor comes to talk to the priest.  He wants to have Rwandans protecting Rwandans.  What missing men?  Kidnapped UN soldiers.  The priest tells him he will see what he can do.  He asks the commander.  The prime minister is dead.  The UN soldiers were protecting them. 

Hutu soldiers and militia with weapons start gathering outside the fence.  Hutus give hate speech broadcasts talking about the cockroaches hiding in the schools and churches.  Te teacher asks the commander to escort him to Rachel of the BBC to get her to come and record what is happening at the school.   The commander says: "No escort."  The missing UN soldiers are found butchered.  The commander says no one's safety can be guaranteed now. 

Without an escort, the teacher goes into the streets.  He runs up the street.  He asks if Francois is here.  All they try to do is to give him some drink.  1.5 thousands hiding at the school.  And 40 Europeans hiding.  Even ordinary people are killing the Tutsis.  A militia blockade.  There are dead Tutsis by the side of the road.  The teacher is manhandled out of the car.  So are the two journalists.  A Tutsi man is taken into the jungle and killed with machetes.  Rachel tells Joe to look at her rather than the man being killed.  But Joe can't help but look.  The Hutu translator for Joe, Francois, comes to speak on behalf of Joe.  They let the three go.  They rush back to the truck and get in.  the Hutu translator has also been killing judging from his bloody pants. 

They stop and take video of the atrocities committed.  Men, women and children killed.  Joe is really shaken by what he sees.  Rachel keeps asking if Joe is okay.  He says nothing. 

The priest comes to speak with Joe.  Francois was there, says Joe.  Rachel asks the commander why the UN cannot stop this slaughter?  Would you call this a genocide?  If it is a genocide, you are obligated to intervene.  The commander says they have tried to change their mission statement with no luck. 

The priest asks if the UN will withdraw?  Charles just says he's a soldier.  His grandparents took in Jewish refugees to save them from the Nazis.  Right outside the gates the killers sing and dance and threaten the Tutsis. 

Rachel talks with Joe.  he said he came to Rwanda "to make a difference."  He laughs.  Rachel was in Bosnia last year.  She cried every day but did some very good work.  The generators go out and they have to light lanterns.  they hear a woman scream.  A woman is giving birth.   The priest delivers a healthy boy child for the woman.  She says she will name the child Christopher after the priest. 

The priest says that the fathers in a nearby church were murdered -- all hacked to death.  He says he has not seen this before.  The baby is not well.  He has a fever and discharge from his eyes.  the baby needs medicine.  Christopher takes the truck and heads out to get the medicine.  Then he says he will go to the church where the fathers were murdered.  The priest goes to get the medicine.  He keeps asking about who is the child.  So the priest offers the druggist extra money.  He lies and says the child is Hutu.  Christopher sees a huge blood trail leading to a dead man's head. 

The priest is stopped at a blockade.  They try to take his medicine away, but he says the medicine is for him.  He starts coughing to show them he needs the medicine.  The priest visits the church.  The place is a real mess.  And it really stinks.  Christopher sees the bodies of dead women, some having been raped before being killed. 

Christopher makes it back to the school.  He is shaken by what he has seen.  The commander says he is going to shoot the dogs.  So Christopher asks if the dogs have fired upon his soldiers, because according to their stupid mandate, they can only fire on he the dogs, if the dogs have fired upon them first.  Marie tells the priest that they are running out of fuel for the fires and Christopher tells them to burn the Bibles.  The priest baptizes the boy Christopher. 

The French arrive in trucks.  The commander had a dispute in French with the French commander.  They are only taking the whites.  And of the whites, they are taking the French first.  Even the dogs get to go before the Rwandans.  Rachel tells Joe to get on the truck, but Joe says he is staying.  So Rachel leaves without saying another word to him.  The French take off with their white cargo. The Rwandans chase after the trucks.    

Marie wonders if God loves everyone  --especially the people outside.  Joe looks for Etta and her baby because he has her medicine.  A young boy tells Joe that they are running away from the back of the property.  And sure enough the people are killed the men yielding machetes and hoes and other objects of death.  Her baby cries and they hear it.  Edda runs for it but is killed, along with her baby.  The soldiers pull Joe away from the fence. 

Joe wonders how much pain can a man take without shutting down completely?  The priest says he doesn't know.  Christopher tells him that it's about time they packed their bags.  Marie comes to see the priest again.  She says:  "You never leave us, Father Christopher/" He can't say yes. 

The UN gets orders to withdraw to the airport.  The commander tells Joe that he better go with them or he will die. The priest gives the people holy communion before the UN leaves. 

The UN starts leaving and panic strikes the people being left behind.  They desperately want to get on the trucks.  Marie sees Joe and says:  "Where are you going?  You promised!"  Roland asks the captain to kill them with their bullets.  But the UN soldiers cannot do that.  Spare the children the pain.  He says I am sorry, but he cannot help him. 

Joe feels terrible about leaving.  He sees the priest staying.  He jumps down to ask him why is he staying behind?  Christopher says God is right here with these people.  The feeling of God's presence is more intense and profound than he has ever felt before.  If he leaves, he fears he may not find it again. 

After the UN is gone some of the Rwandans get into the truck.  Roland forces his daughter to get on.  Christopher is driving them out.  He tells Roland that when he gets back he wants another load ready to leave.   A leader outside blows his whistle:  "Let the work begin!"  They move in to begin the slaughter.  The priest is stopped at a blockade.  The druggist who gave him the medicine asks him why is he in this truck?  He accuses him of stealing the truck.  A few of the children get out of the truck and rush into the woods.  Christopher tries to delay the druggist as long as he can.  he shoots the priest.   Marie watches all this and only then leaves. 

The spokeswoman for the President of the united States has to play word games with the term genocide.  A reporters ask:  "How many acts of genocide makes a genocide?" She just says she is uncomfortable with the term.  Not all murderous acts are because of genocide, she says.  Marie keeps running and running away from her town.

Years later, Marie comes to see Joe.  This is where Father Christopher was when he was a young priest.  She asks why did he leave them?  He says he was afraid to die.  She says they are fortunate with all this time they have been given.  They must use it well. 

2,500 Rwandans were killed at the school where Father Christopher taught.  Over 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the genocide. The film is dedicated to all those who died in the genocide.  Some of the survivors of the genocide are presented and their losses of family members described. 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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