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Films >> Hotel Rwanda (2004) >>

1) We [Terry George and Keir Pearson] both agreed that the purpose of the film was to reach a wide audience, an audience that probably knew nothing about the Rwandan genocide, and make them aware. (Terry George 21)

2) Real, however, is what, in filmic terms, Hotel Rwanda is not and cannot be. In point of fact, Hotel Rwanda can only be "real" after systematic suppression of its film-ness and the subsequent overprovision of ideology in the image. Indeed, the more such types of films purport and try to be "real," the more unfilmic they actually become. (Nyasha Mboti 320)

3) Hotel Rwanda has a tendency to understate the horrors of the Rwandan genocide and even to romanticize aspects of the story it tells. This is mostly due to a box-office strategy that seeks to make the genocide more tolerable to a mass audience, partly a result of trying to communicate an optimistic message about the ultimate triumph of human benevolence, and partly a product of the decision to focus on a case that is unrepresentative of the Rwandan catastrophe. (Mohamad Adhikari 290)

4) The killing could have ended right there. It all could have been stopped quite easily at this early stage with just a small fraction of the police department of any midsized American city…A brigade of international soldiers would have found it surprisingly easy to keep order on the streets of Kigali if they had had the guts to show they meant business about saving lives. But they didn’t. (Paul Rusesabagina 74)

5) The feature film is an extremely powerful medium and the Rwandan genocide a potentially explosive issue but Hotel Rwanda comes nowhere close to fully exploiting their potential. (Mohamed Adhikari 282)

6) The film works not because the screen is filled with meaningless special effects, formless action and vast digital armies, but because Cheadle, Nolte and the filmmakers are interested in how two men choose to function in an impossible situation. Because we sympathize with these men, we are moved by the film. (Roger Ebert)

7) The U.N. Security Council, so ineffective in the face of the genocide. (Paul Rusesabagina 168)

8) It would not be unfair to regard the film as having a duty to inform, perhaps even to educate, viewers to a greater extent than it does. (Mohamed Adhikari)

9) It is not, strictly speaking, a story of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Rather, George wanted to recount the atrocity in Rwanda in such a way that it would, according to him, have broad cinematic appeal and, at the same time, elicit for the future what has come to be popularly known as "the lesson of Rwanda." (Randall Williams 47)

10) Two days before, as I waited for [Rusesabagina] to join me at the boarding gate in Brussels for the flight to Kigali, he called to say he had decided not to travel to Rwanda. On his speaking tours around the United States and Europe, he had begun to criticize Kagame's government, saying that the last election in Rwanda, in which Kagame received 90.5 percent of the vote, was not democratic and that true peace would come to Rwanda only when it had an inclusive government. Because of his criticism, Rusesabagina said, he had been advised that it would not be safe for him. I could not persuade him to come. (Terry George)

11) While the move to make Paul belong to one side -- rather than structure his character in terms of a hybrid -- helps drive the story of Hotel Rwanda forward by creating story appeal, the move is also, critically, a flawed one. Not only does it totalise Rwandans, but it also reinforces a streotype: either one is Hutu or they are Tutsi. (Nyasha Mboti 323)

12) With Terry George as master of ceremonies a deserted alley can become a red carpet. (Hilary Chadwick, draft of Scene Analysis: “A Crucial Difference between a Personal Story and Genocide”)

13) But to communicate this message as ineptly as Hotel Rwanda does represents a missed opportunity to disseminate a cogent understanding of the Rwandan genocide to an expectant world-wide audience, the greater part of which has had little opportunity for grappling with the meaning of this atrocity through the popular media. (Mohamed Adhikari 282)

14) His [Paul's] notably Westernized perspective has very little to do with the ordinary Rwandan experience in the 1980s and the 1990s and thus skews the larger aim of educating us about the genocide outlined in the film's promotion. (Harri Kilpi 145)

15) Memorials invite us to remember, but they are far from neutral and universal; they are influenced by their locations, constructed from various subject positions, and embody the ideals of those who erect them. Memorials, hence, tend to minimize and silence some stories and memories while promoting others. (Ngwarsungu Chiwengo 83)

16) Terry George limits his ability to exploit his medium and undermines the efficacy of his message by being too restrained in depicting the horror of the Rwandan genocide. Terry George’s treatment of Rusesabagina’s story deprives it of much of its power to provoke or enlighten. (Mohamad Adhikari 299)

17) The mood is more strongly one of despair than of horror. (Tom Baker)

18) While such sentiments have a great deal of immediate humanitarian appeal, their apparent simplicity betrays a much more complex and difficult set of questions: Who is this international community? Who is this "we" that should have done something? What should this "we" have done? What if this "we" were already doing a great deal in Rwanda? What if what "we" were doing in Rwanda was in fact a major contributing cause to the slaughter? And if this is the case, what becomes the question: "What should we have done?" (Randall Williams 50)

19) The presumption of veracity at the heart of Hotel Rwanda may be proven to be false. Indeed, one of Hotel Rwanda's first problems is that it begins by trapping Rwandans inside a priori categories. (Nyasha Mboti 323)

20) On Oct. 28 a reporter for the Rwandan daily newspaper the New Times ran a long story on the "true nature" of Rusesabagina, which quoted a former receptionist at the hotel as saying that he had saved only his few friends, and that he had charged people to stay in the rooms (a fact we had highlighted and explained in the film). Buried at the end of the piece was probably the true fear of the Rwandan authorities: that Rusesabagina planned to form a political party. The newspaper attacks on Rusesabagina have steadily escalated. In November he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush. Six days later a New Times editorial said he would "go down in the annals of history as a man who sold the soul of the Rwandan Genocide to amass medals." (Terry George)

21) Hotel Rwanda's simplistic approach to genocide is more likely to perpetuate rather than dispel stereotypes of Africa as a place of senseless violence and tribal animosities. (Mohamed Adhikari)

22) This shift from the right of intervention to the duty to intervene is of profound importance. (Randall Williams 50)

23) Although another trend can be found in the tactics between the censorship ratings and probable audience sizes, Hotel Rwanda's "tasteful" and restricted portrayal of atrocities can still be interpreted as following Hollywood's habit of sanitization and schematization of war, which excludes the randomness, injustice, and messy ugliness inherent in most wars. (Harri Kilpi 149)

24) The penchant for romanticism is nowhere more marked than in the clumsy wrapping up of the story at the end of the film. (Mohamad Adhikari 290)

25) There were a few dramatic embellishments, but I know that’s typical for Hollywood movies, and the story was very close to the truth. (Paul Rusesabagina 189)

26) There is too much heroism and too little horror in Hotel Rwanda, too much romanticism and too little reality. (Mohamed Adhikari 292)

27) Rather than argue about the film on the basis of the visual and narrative content of its mise en scene, they feature dozens of "witnesses" who they claim were present at the hotel Mille Collines during the genocide. They attempt to use the witnesses' testimony to "discredit" the film. (Nyasha Mboti 325)

28) Words are the most powerful tools of all, and especially the words that we pass to those who come after us. I will never forget that favorite saying of my father’s: “Whoever does not talk to his father never knows what his grandfather said.” So I decided to write this book for the sake of the historic record. (Paul Rusesabagina 190)

29) A has to be seen as A, and B to be seen to be B, without any grey areas or passages between them. Cementing the binary split helps remove potential narrative contradiction. (Nyasha Mboti 320)

30) A few days later Rwandan Radio ran a two-hour live talk show about Rusesabagina. The speakers included genocide survivors and, sadly, some old friends of Rusesabagina's. Francois Xavier Ngarambe, the president of Ibuka, the umbrella body of genocide survivors' associations, ended the show by claiming: "He has hijacked heroism. He is trading with the genocide. He should be charged." I called Rusesabagina in Brussels to discuss what was going on. He said he saw the smear campaign as confirmation of his previous fears and of his reservations about the Kagame regime. His new autobiography, "An Ordinary Man," will only make things worse, as in his last chapter he writes, "Rwanda is today a nation governed by and for the benefit of a small group of elite Tutsis. . . . Those few Hutus who have been elevated to high-ranking posts are usually empty suits without any real authority of their own. They are known locally as Hutus de service or Hutus for hire." (Terry George)

31) More importantly, because it was the first feature-length offering with mass appeal to deal with the genocide in Rwanda -- about which, it needs to be said, there is widespread public interest but a good degree of ignorance -- it would not be unfair to regard the film as having a duty to inform, perhaps even to educate, viewers to a greater extent than it does. (Mohamed Adhikari 280)

32) And, indeed, if, like Paul or the Western spectator, one takes wealth and peace as everyday givens, the killings thus portrayed would look like insanity and "pure" hatred or "elemental" evil. (Harri Kilpi 149)

33) Hotel Rwanda makes little more than a cursory attempt to explain why the genocide happened or to sketch the political and historical context in which it unfolded. The film instead focuses on the intense drama around Rusesabagina's heroic attempts to save his charges. (Mohamed Adhikari 280)

34) I am a Rwandan, after all, and I know that all things pass away but history. History never dies. It is what defines us as a civilization, and we live out our collective histories every day, in ways both good and evil. (Paul Rusesabagina 190)

35) In other words, when contemporary filmmakers take up the subject of violence in the third world (or South), especially when produced for the first world (or North), the cultural scripts bear the traces of the growing ascendancy of human rights discourse. (Randall Williams 47)

36) The world's failure to intervene in Rwanda was a moral outrage. It was a failure, in the end, of imagination and fellow feeling -- a failure to imagine how it felt to be living and trapped in Rwanda at that particular moment in time. (Jason Cowley)

37) Abandoned in a crisis by the Europeans—the people he has always catered to—Paul, though increasingly desperate, holds to his temperamental equanimity, his belief in civility. Violence, for him, would be a defeat. (David Denby)

38) Terry George's overall approach may be summed up as one that evaded the key issues at stake in the Rwandan genocide. (Mohamed Adhikari)

39) Hollywood has a formula, not foolproof but entrenched, for turning a political message into a commercial film: take a likable hero, add a romance, then telegraph an unobjectionable idea, something like, "Let's feed starving children." Lately, a new twist has been added: latch on to Africa. (Caryn James)

40) Will [Hotel Rwanda’s] impressive critical success inspire -- or shame -- American filmmakers to attempt more realistic portrayals of Africa than they have in the past? (Ed Leibowitz)

41) On April 6, the 12th anniversary of the genocide, Kagame launched his first attack on Rusesabagina, saying, "He should try his talents elsewhere and not climb on the falsehood of being a hero, because it's totally false." I pray that this situation can be resolved. The millions who saw "Hotel Rwanda" and received its message of hope ought to know that they were not duped. I understand Paul Rusesabagina's desire to foster inclusiveness in Rwanda. I understand, as well, Kagame's legitimate fear that the country has suffered too much, too recently, to allow divisions to be fostered. There are many politicians here and abroad who could mediate this clash. "Hotel Rwanda 2" is a sequel I never want to make. (Terry George)

42) It is also rare for a film primarily about Africans and with an African hero with agency to receive popular endorsement from Western audiences. (Mohamed Adhikari 299)

43) Nothing could ever be the same for us again. (Paul Rusesabagina 175)

44) In due fashion, representations of the root problems of the conflict lie tucked away in the margins of Hotel Rwanda, in the fleeting, panoramic shots of the hills around Kigali, in the slums and the marketplaces buzzing with people, in the bloody history of the country revisited briefly in the dialogue, and in the name Mill Collines, or "thousand hills." (Harri Kilpi 151)

45) The disembodiment of Rusesabagina's story from the complexity of the content is the central weakness. (Mohamed Adhikari)

46) [T]he fact that Hotel Rwanda addresses an important subject doesn't make it an important movie, or even a worthwhile one. In fact, the gravity of its subject matter only raises the cost of failure, transforming a mediocre movie into an offensively inadequate one. (Sam Adams)

47) Not only is it not logically possible to show the world as it is, but one suspects that anyone who claims to be able to use film to show the world "truthfully" is either innocently unsure about what film's purpose is, or is being insincere. (Nyasha Mboti 318)

48) In a key moment, Paul stops keeping up appearances with his neatly pressed suit, white shirt and conservative tie. He casts the jacket and tie aside and devotes himself to saving lives. In the process, he becomes an authentic hero. (Philip French)

49) The attempt at an uplifting ending is ham-fisted, if not open to censure for the questionable message it conveys. (Mohamed Adhikari)