4 October 2011
Hotel Rwanda, Terry George’s 2004 film about the Rwandan genocide, is caught in a situation with other genocide films that leads to some viewers to object to it while others are strongly drawn to it and everything between these two extremes. That situation is one where some find that the film fictionalizes and understates its events whereas others find that it represents a gateway through which the audience learns more about the relatively overlooked genocide in Rwanda. In order to make this film effective and reach an audience of reasonable scale, history had to be changed; the only question is how much had to be altered. Terry George altered the history enough to produce a movie that received critical acclaim but sacrificed historical and political context surrounding the Rwandan Genocide. The film altered the historical context by utilizing a hero-style narrative to a necessary extent.
Hotel Rwanda follows Paul Rusesabagina from a few days before the genocide begins until his escape from the war zone four months later. Rusesabagina is originally depicted as a man with sentiments only to his family and the guests at the hotel he manages, the Hôtel des Mille Collines. When the genocide against the Tutsis begins, Paul is not as concerned as one would expect. He is positive that Westerners will come and quickly put an end to the violence. In the meantime, he shelters Tutsis from the ruthless Interhamwe, who are trying to eradicate them. When on a return trip from collecting supplies for the hotel, Paul cannot figure out why the road is suddenly covered with bumps and dips that have never been there before. Through the morning fog, he cannot see what has happened. When he inspects the road, he discovers that the bumps he had been hitting are actually bodies of victims of genocide victims. About this time, the U.N. orders the recall of most of its troops and the evacuation of all westerners. Paul is informed by Colonel...