The violence in the spectacle of excessive signification: Shooting Dogs (1995) and the Rwandan genocide | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 6, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1754-9221
  • E-ISSN: 1754-923X



The Rwandan genocide (1994) was a catastrophic mass killing in which nearly one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus perished at the hands of Hutu extremists. Several critical works have explored the Rwandan genocide in film but none reaches the multiple levels of conceptual analysis that reflects the many levels of discursive violence involved in depicting the tragedy through film. The aim of this article is to depict the levels of conceptualizing the Rwandan genocide through the tropological figure of the ‘dog’ in the film Shooting Dogs (1995). On a literal level, Shooting Dogs is viewed as representing, first, the actual failed attempt at shooting and killing the dogs (animals) that were feeding on the corpses of the dead Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Second, as a metaphor, Shooting Dogs (1995) uncannily reflects the debased and stereotypic reference to Tutsis and moderate Hutus as ‘dogs’ who ‘deserved’ to be gunned down as dogs because they are depicted as dastardly cowards. Third, Shooting Dogs is taken to mean the cinematographic action of ‘shooting’ images of dogs to represent the dogs who feasted on corpses during the genocide. Fourth, the film Shooting Dogs is viewed as a cultural mission to represent, through the camera’s ‘eye’, the insensitivity and cruelty of Hutu extremists and of the international community whose lack of respect for human life allowed the genocide to happen. It is argued that the symbolic violence manifested in Shooting Dogs constitutes a spectacle of excessive signification that attempts to inhibit imagining other, pro-life depictions, but fails dramatically because not all the Tutsis were killed in the genocide. The fact is that the Tutsis who survived the genocide are equally worthy of representation with their differentiated range of emotions and responses, and this could have been depicted in the film without minimizing the horror of the genocide. Such an argument forces us to realize that the ways in which art significantly translates known realities into telling stories can be a violent process that distorts human truths.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): dogs; Hutus; Rwandan genocide; Tutsis
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