Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

Films >> Hotel Rwanda (2004) >>

Print Resources

Adhikari, Mohamed. "Hotel Rwanda: Too Much Heroism, Too Little History -- or Horror?" Black and White in Colour: African History on Screen. Ed. Vivian Bickford-Smith and Richard Mendelsohn. Athens: Ohio UP, 2007. 279-99.
Severely critical of the film, the essence of this article might be summed up in one of the sub-titles: "An opportunity missed?" We find such claims as "disembodiment of Rusesabagina's story from the complexity of the content is the central weakness"; "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"; "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"; "Terry George's overall approach may be summed up as one that evaded the key issues at stake in the Rwandan genocide"; "the attempt at an uplifting ending is ham-fisted, if not open to censure for the questionable message it conveys"; the film is of "uneven quality," "seriously flawed."
Brickford-Smith, Vivian, and Richard Mendelsohn. Black + White in Colour: African History on Screen. Athens: Ohio UP, 2007.
This is an excellent source on the film industry's portrayal of Africa and how this compares to real African history. It includes a chapter dedicated to Hotel Rwanda that briefly examines the history of the genocide as well as the film's efficacy. It critiques director Terry George's decision to focus on the heroic story of Paul Rusesabagina while neglecting to portray the gory history. There is a long list of credible international resources that provide references to this text and is a great resource to explore Africa in film.
Chiwengo, Ngwarsungu. "When Wounds and Corpses Fail to Speak: Narratives of Violence and Rape in Congo (DRC)." Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 28.1 (2008): 78-92.
Chiwengo focuses largely on the absence of an accurate narrative to communicate the pain of Congolese rape survivors with the international community. Through this exploration she references other examples of other successful human rights, literary, and cinematic narratives that have provided a voice to Africa; among this list is Terry George's Hotel Rwanda. Chiwengo describes Hotel Rwanda as a "memorial narrative that invite[s] remembrance" (80). Despite her largely positive review of the film, Chiwengo still acknowledges a potential pitfall. She cites Anthère Nzabatsinda's critique of Hotel Rwanda: "The theme…successfully challenges all viewers and well presents the tragedy, albeit Africa is represented as ‘a metaphorical place of nonhumans'" (84). After this critique, Chiwengo claims that George's motive to create a love story in Hotel Rwanda was to appeal to Western audiences. She notes, "The romance and candlelight dinner on the roof of the hotel much bemused some diasporic African Omahan viewers, who wondered who would be crazy enough to have a romantic dinner during that war. Yet for the international viewer/witness, it is this love story that humanizes the bestialized Africans and naturalizes the horror the characters experience" (85). The final section indicates her appreciation for "human rights, literary, and cinematic narratives" to alleviate the challenge to narrate pain, and also encourages the Congolese to produce a nationally based narrative to communicate this suffering with the international community, despite its current lack of representation (92).
English, Bella. "'Ordinary Man' Recounts Extraordinary Actions." Boston Globe 17 April 2006. http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2006/04/17/ordinary_man_recounts_extraordinary_actions/
Review of the book, which came out after the movie: "In his new memoir, 'An Ordinary Man,' Rusesabagina (who wryly remarks that he is not nearly ''as good looking" as Cheadle) fleshes out the Hollywood version with accounts of his rural childhood, seminary days, career as the first Rwandan manager of a European hotel, and his life since the genocide. He weaves the country's history with his personal history into a rich narrative that attempts to explain the unexplainable." Comparing the book and movie: "Contrary to the movie version of events, Rusesabagina and his wife, who both lost close relatives in the slaughter, stayed on for two more years in Kigali; he reopened the hotel a month after the killings stopped. But death threats ultimately forced them to flee to a new life in Brussels. From afar, he weeps for his country's past, and fears for its future.
Evans, Martha, and Ian Glenn. "'TIA-This Is Africa': Afropessimism in Twenty-First-Century Narrative Film." Black Camera 2.1 (2010): 14-35.
"This paper considers new representations of postcolonial Africa via five big-budget narrative films, including Hotel Rwanda (2004), The Constant Gardener (2005), The Interpreter (2005), Blood Diamond (2006), and The Last King of Scotland (2006). Although these films appear to have transcended old colonial stereotypes, a new set of features and themes, all Afropessimist in nature, links them, suggesting the West's negative influence on perceptions of the continent. Although the films show more commitment to realism and historical accuracy than previous cinematic treatments of Africa, they still struggle to represent the real challenges and complexities associated with the continent. The limitations of genre and the pressures of the industry result in several weaknesses, principally an inability to investigate the social and structural elements of African history, the overreliance on white focalizers and narrators, and a tendency to generalize from particular cases to continental trends."
George, Terry, and Keir Pearson. Hotel Rwanda: Bringing the True Story of an African Hero to Film. New York: Newmarket Press, 2005.
The book is a complete source, especially valuable for the screenplay and images of both the film and Paul Rusesagabina, however it lacks historic material both in quality and quantity. It is divided into sections that include: personal reflection from both Keir Pearson and Terry George on their motives for creating the film, a brief, bulleted timeline of Rwandan history prior to the genocide, the screenplay (complete with blocking, camera directions and dialog), the script of The Triumph of Evil, the Frontline PBS produced documentary on the genocide of Rwanda, as well as many images from the film and Rwanda. In addition, the book includes a variety of resources that include books, web, and organizations working in Rwanda.
George, Terry. "Smearing a Hero: Sad Revisionism Over 'Hotel Rwanda'." Washington Post 10 May 2006.
"When the film was released," George says, "Rusesabagina was acknowledged as a hero not just by ordinary people across the United States and Europe but also by diplomats, politicians, journalists and Rwandan officials in diplomatic posts here. Rwandan expatriates gave testimony to the veracity of the film, as did people who had been in the hotel and who tearfully acknowledged Rusesabagina's role." But on worldwide speaking tours, Rusesabagina has begun to criticise the Kagame government, as he did in the last chapter of his autobiography, so that he hears for his safety and a "smear campaign" has begun about him: "On Oct. 28 [2005] 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." George continues: "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'." George hopes someone will "mediate this clash."
Harrow, Kenneth W. "'Un train peut en cacher un autre': Narrating the Rwandan Genocide and Hotel Rwanda." Research in African Literatures 36.4 (2005): 223-32.
Harrow uses the historic chronology of Rwanda to illustrate that the genocide was not just an "exception" but a product of history. He argues that Hotel Rwanda, however, is part of a body of "counternarratives" that have constructed a narrative of genocide that reinforces the fact that it is an exception. He uses scenes from the film to highlight how Hotel Rwanda portrays a simplistic representation of the Hutu and Tutsi identities that do not accurately reflect history. He wonders if films like Hotel Rwanda "have served to keep us from making the connection to world globalized conditions in which the accountability of non-Africans is often occluded." With this suspicion, he advocates for a change in construction of narratives to explain genocide as "linked to the world globalized economic and political structure replicated in various places around the world" rather than an exception.
Härting, Heike. "Global Humanitarianism, Race, and the Spectacle of the African Corpse in Current Western Representations of the Rwandan Genocide." Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 28.1 (2008): 61-77.
Harting provides a detailed argument that claims Hotel Rwanda has contributed to the de-historization of Africa. He cites several scenes that make history too transparent, when in fact he believes these are exaggerations that are then attributed to all of Africa. He suggests that readers should approach the immediate images available to them with a more critical eye, rather than believing they have a more "clear" history of Africa that is not accurate.
Henninger, Daniel. "Wonder Land: 'Hotel Rwanda' Forces a Look At Mass Murder." Wall Street Journal 25 February 2005: A18.
"The world today sits at a dead end: Weeping over 'Hotel Rwanda' and clueless about what to do. Many who weep may be found among the European and American elites who oppose the Bush Doctrine, which argues for what is called 'preventive war.' Setting aside the Eurocynics and bitter-enders whose opposition to George Bush is an involuntary reflex, those who resist preventive strikes against 'rogue states' disagree with the Bush government that these rogues pose an imminent or significant threat. If so, it is little wonder that a Rwanda or Darfur don't move the needle. Rwanda or Darfur pose zero threat to anyone beyond their borders. Why don't the more thoughtful Bush opponents seize the opportunity at hand to address the mitigation of genocides and mass murder? They ought to pocket the accumulating moral and political success of the U.S. intervention in Iraq and build on that toward a military doctrine for preventing the next Rwanda or Darfur. The realists are right that you can't save everyone (a calculus made unapologetically clear by the writers of 'Hotel Rwanda'). But the attractive proposition George Bush is attempting to put before the hard-wired, all-news, 21st century world is that we can't -- literally cannot -- shut our eyes to evil anymore. Saddam is Rwanda is Darfur.
Katz, Lee Michael. "The Man Behind the Movie -- Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life Hotel Rwanda manager, discusses genocide in Africa." National Journal 38.16 (2006): 50-51.
Interview that includes material on the film.
Kilpi, Harri. "The Landscape's Lie: Class, Economy, and Ecology in Hotel Rwanda." Framing the World: Explorations in Ecocriticism and Film. Ed. Paula Willoquet-Maricondi. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2010. 135-53.
Kilpi attempts to explain the genocide in terms of economy and ecology. According to Kilpi, behind racial conflict there are economic and ecological factors that have contributed to the slaughter. After the independence, economic hardships continued. In addition, because of the mountainous geological condition, the population is centered in few regions with healthy soils, driving up the population density. Thus, continuous economic struggles and limited land led Rwandans to seize any opportunities that were given to them. However, the perspective of Hotel Rwanda is confined to the Hotel des Mille Collines. Kilpi recognizes that "the acts of altruism are possible even in the face of atrocities that can be reduced in representation in order to concentrate on the human, emotional, and rational stress felt by the main protagonist." But, Kilpi points out, the actions of heroism by Paul Rusesabagina are not close to "ordinary Rwandan experience."
Mboti, Nyasha. "To Show the World as It Is, or as It Is Not: The Gaze of Hollywood Films about Africa." African Identities 8.4 (2010): 317-32.
It is almost impossible for films to be truthful. Moreover, George, who is Irish, looks at the genocide from a Western perspective, without sufficient understanding of the country and its background. Because George does not understand the history perfectly, he excludes the complexity from the film. For instance, there is a complex historical background behind the slaughter, yet it is simply displayed as Hutu vs. Tutsi, what Mboti calls a "splitting strategy." Paul Rusesabagina is, in fact, half Hutu and half Tutsi; nevertheless, he is simply Hutu in the film. The audience establishes their position of pitying victims (mostly Tutsis) and judging Hutus (Hutu extremists), which led to the box office success. Hence, Hotel Rwanda is too simplified to encompass the entire truth.
McClain, Ruth. "Using Film Media as Visual Text for Studying the Rwandan Genocide." Exploring African Life and Literature: Novel Guides to Promote Socially Responsive Learning. Ed. Jacqueline N. Glasgow, etal. Newark: International Reading Association, 2007. 293-307.
McClain fully appreciates film as an educational tool that can impress audiences by catering to our dominant sense of sight. In this chapter, she advocates the use of Hotel Rwanda as a "text" to be used in high school or college classrooms. She prescribes a lesson plan, complete with pre-, during, and post-viewing exercises that conclude with a community service project in which students sell painted clay pots. However, these exercises lack the complex synthesizing tasks appropriate for older students. Although she does apply important questions to help process the film, there are significant errors in her recount of Rwandan history, namely oversimplifying the current Hutu Tutsi conflict, as well as wrongly identifying the leader of the UN Rwanda Peacekeeping mission as Colonel Oliver—the film's character---rather than the real life figure General Romeo Dellaire. Overall, although an interesting provocation, this classroom protocol seems more appropriate for junior high students.
Melvern, Linda. "Hotel Rwanda -- Without the Hollywood Ending." theguardian.com 17 November 2011. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/nov/17/hotel-rwanda-hollywood-ending
"Rusesabagina was awarded the Lantos Human Rights prize in Washington on Wednesday, but it has sparked controversy in Rwanda, because the real story of why the people who took refuge at the hotel were spared could be somewhat different to the Hollywood version."
Miller, Nickole. "Projecting Hope and Making Reel Change in Africa." Human Rights Quarterly 30.3 (2008): 827-38.
Miller argues that film can inspire human rights activism by informing audiences and empowering individuals to contribute to these causes. Film's ability to "give the appearance of immediacy and authenticity and…elicit an emotive response that spurs action" has helped create a more accurate portrayal of Africa that used to only be documented by sensationalized news stations. She uses Hotel Rwanda as an example of a film that mobilized large numbers of people and thus contributed to the public knowledge and awareness about human rights.
Motskin, Yon. "Hotel Rwanda." Creative Screenwriting 12.1 (2005): 74-75.
Motskin gives an insightful review that helps explain Terry George's decisions to evade violence and retell history to achieve his goal of making a film accessible to audiences. Motskin encourages the reader to consider George's challenge of balancing historic accuracy with storytelling. It is apparent from the interview that George is dedicated to upholding historical accuracy. Yet, his goal of placing Hotel Rwanda among the genre of genocide films by making it available to the "widest possible audience," I argue, compromised its credibility. To do this, he utilized a method of "compilation," which compiled many real-life characters into one to create a "thriller element" that he determined necessary to avoid long "expositions" and maintain the audience's interest. I argue, however, that George does too much coddling, although this did reach the widespread audience he imagined.
Nzabatsinda, Anthere. "Hotel Rwanda." Research in African Literatures 36.4 (2005): 233-36.
Nzabatsinda argues that Hotel Rwanda's success is creating a fictional story applied to the history of the Rwandan genocide. He believes the film succeeded in establishing a balance between this fiction and the "a quasi-journalistic portrayal of historic events." However, I believe Nzabatsinda gives too much credit to Terry George as well as the audience's ability to clearly label the film fictional. Nzabatsinda inaccurately portrays the historic detail that Hotel Rwanda's includes, as he describes the scenes of the movie based on his knowledge on Rwanda's history rather than just what he observed from the film. Nzabatsinda's account also notes the film's ability to portray "the heroism of the individuals who won over brutality." However, despite Rusesabagina's heroic and significant efforts, individuals did not win over brutality in the Rwandan genocide. Finally, although he is able to identify the fictional elements to the film, I do not believe most audiences will have such a keen eye, and will instead associate this film with a near-perfect representation of both Rusesabagina's life as well as the genocide.
Rexroat, Julianne A. "Read Our History: Postcolonial Identity in Hotel Rwanda." Thesis: Arizona State University, 2006.
A Masters thesis on the history of the genocide portrayed by Hotel Rwanda. Rexroat too criticizes the film for withholding sufficient description and detail surrounding the economic and political factors that she believes were "causal factors in the genocide." Yet she recognizes its portrayal of the negligence of the international community that she states "was caused by a racist view of Africa and the Rwandan people."
Saunders, D. J. M. "The Last Cockroach: The De- and Rehumanizing of Culture in Cinema." Bright Lights Film Journal 51 (Feb 2006).
In the cannon of violent films, Saunders praises Hotel Rwanda for championing the saint, Paul Rusesabagina, over typically upstaged superheroes or villains. He is happy that the film, despite the black ethnicity of the leading characters, "reached white audiences," and he advocates that more "impressionable young minds" watch these types of films that document violent and inhumane chapters of history.
Torchin, Leshu. "Hotel Rwanda." Cineaste 30.2 (2005): 46-48.
"What does an audience seek in a film about genocide? Are viewers looking for a political thriller or an uplifting tale of moral goodness to best dramatize the social suffering and the failure of humanity that occur in these real-life crises? Estheticization seems at odds with the cruelty of the events defining genocide, and moral goodness remains irreconcilable with either this massive crime or the inaction of its witnesses. Director and cowriter (with Keir Pearson) Terry George negotiates this difficult terrain in 'Hotel Rwanda'."
Uraizee, Joya. "Darkening the Gaze: Representing Ethnic Conflict in Alfredo Jaar's Let There Be Light and Terry George's Hotel Rwanda." In the Jaws of the Leviathan: Genocide Fiction and Film. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2010.
Both works express "inexpressibility" by "darkening the gaze" through three motifs: witnessing, compassion, and betrayal. The darkened gaze fixes in our memories "haunting images by which we may examine both our own involvement in the genocide, and ways to hope for a better future for all."
Williams, Randall. "A Duty to Intervene: On the Cinematic Constitution of Subjects for Empire in Hotel Rwanda." The Divided World: Human Rights and Its Violence. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2010.
Williams says that in the colonization era, intervention was regarded as the right of the Western hemisphere whereas it is now considered as the duty. However, the essence of intervention has not changed -- intervention shows the superiority of the West. Western intervention is a critical contributor to stopping the genocide, even though western intervention is carried out when their own interests are at stake. And the West will not intervene until the third world is severely damaged and becomes a real victim. According to Williams, Hotel Rwanda is an example that displays severe consequences when there is no intervention.

See Also

Aaron, Michele. "Looking on and Looking the Other Way: Hotel Rwanda (2004) and the Racialised Ethics of Spectatorship." Film Moments: Criticism, History, Theory. Ed. Tom Brown and James Walters. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. 152-56.

Ashuntantang J. "Hollywood's Representations of Human Rights: The Case of Terry George's Hotel Rwanda." Hollywood's Africa after 1994. Ed. Maryellen Higgins. Athens: Ohio UP, 2012. 54-67.

Cooper, Rand Richards. "Underdogs: Hotel Rwanda and Million Dollar Baby." Commonweal 132.2 (2005): 30-32.

Courtemanche, Gil. A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2003.

Glover, Jonathan D. "Genocide, Human Rights, and the Politics Of Memorialization: Hotel Rwanda And Africa's World War." South Atlantic Review 75.2 (2010): 95-111.

Magubane, Zine. "Saviors and Survivors: Western Passivity, African Resistance, and the Politics of Genocide in Hotel Rwanda (2004)." Through a Lens Darkly: Films of Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing, and Atrocities. Ed. John J. Michalczyk et al. New York: Peter Lang, 2013. 220-224.

Ndahiro, Alfred, and Privat Rutazibwa. Hotel Rwanda, or, The Tutsi Genocide as seen by Hollywood. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2008.

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Rwafa, Urther. "Film Representations of the Rwandan Genocide." African Identities 8.4 (2010): 389-408.

Vambe, Maurice Taonezvi. "Exploring the Communicative Function of Light, Sound and Colour in Hotel Rwanda." Journal of African Cinemas 3.1 (2011): 43-49.

Video/Audio Resources

Carr, Budd, and Nora Felder. Hotel Rwanda: Music from the Film. New York: Commotion Records, 2005.
Yep, music from the film.

Online Resources

Cowley, Jason. "Rebirth of a Nation." The Observer 26 February 2005. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2005/feb/27/features.review
Cowley questions the morality of turning such a horrific event into a source of entertainment, noting a certain level of "atrocity tourism" in representing genocide in popular culture. Many Africans also feel that no outside person could ever come close to understanding the truth. Regarding Hotel Rwanda, Cowley says that Rusesabagina's story has the "simplicity of myth: a heroic last man putting others before himself in a time of chaos." Director George told him he underplayed the violence in the hopes of "generating discussion and for people to learn from it." Cowley watched the film with a Tutsi survivor who claimed the film caused her to weep and have nightmares.

Rusesabagina, Paul. "Rusesabagina Responds to Rwandan Government Book on Hotel Rwanda. EUX.TV. That's "article [cap I] in the link) http://www.eux.tv/article/.aspx?articleId=20114

Snow, Keith Harmon. "Hotel Rwanda: Hollywood and Holocaust in Central Africa." www.globalresearch.ca