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The Rwandan genocide and the bestiality of representation in 100 Days (2001) and Shooting Dogs (2005)

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The 1994 Rwandan genocide has been a subject of filmic representation in and outside Africa. This article examines two examples of this portrayal and attempts to put them in the context of western perception of African conflict and suffering and its depiction in feature-length fictionalized films. A close analysis of 100 Days (Nick Hughes, UK/Rwanda) and Shooting Dogs (Michael Caton-Jones, UK/Germany), accompanied by cited interviews with their directors, aims to examine the mechanism of the representation of otherness in a situation when the term others is not a straightforward antonym to us. The argument revolves around the idea that others are always a group defined by a common characteristic (the colour of their skin, cultural identity or suffering), while us consists of individuals whose major qualifying feature is the fact that he or she is, individually and collectively, not like others. Special attention is paid to the difference between formal and character-based othering, as well as to the films' adhesion to western cinematic genres. The consideration is contextualized by the concept of the bestiality of representation, which becomes a manner of positioning an event within a socio-historical and individually cognitive context and determining the dynamic among the experience lived, the experience seen and objectivity. Lastly, the article looks at how the circumstances of the production process directly influence the stylistic and aesthetic choices made in films about the Rwandan genocide. In this, it relies on the examination of the trichotomy of politics, representation and the politics of representation.

Keywords: 100 Days; Rwanda; Shooting Dogs; fiction film; genocide; representation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Cambridge.

Publication date: 2010-07-01

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  • The Journal of African Cinemas will explore the interactions of visual and verbal narratives in African film. It recognizes the shifting paradigms that have defined and continue to define African cinemas. Identity and perception are interrogated in relation to their positions within diverse African film languages. The editors are seeking papers that expound on the identity or identities of Africa and its peoples represented in film.�
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