Rwandan Thoughts on Hotel Rwanda
I've had this conversation numerous times, and never at my suggestion. Rwandans are aware of the new attention it has been getting as a result of the movie, and talk about it surprisingly frequently. They think that Don Cheadle decided to take the role because of the money, that the movie doesn't show what actually happened (and I must concede that with the exception of the part where they drove over bodies in Gitarama, it is pretty light on violence), it doesn't show Rwanda (the film was shot in South Africa), it doesn't even feature Rwandans (the characters were played by South Africans who are apparently the cast of a famous S. African TV show), and it is the story of a Hutu who saves some Tutsis (many, it appears, would prefer a story featuring a Tutsi).
Instead, without exception, everyone has recommended the HBO flick Sometimes in April, which came out the same year as Hotel Rwanda. I saw it when it was shown for the first time in Washington. It had been seen as such an important film that HBO teamed up with PBS to show it on public television. It's the story of two Hutu brothers, split by Hutu Power politics. One of the brothers was a radio commentator on RTLM, the radio station which broadcast anti-Tutsi messages. The other was a moderate. It's very violent, but, I will grant, is truer to the more general story of the genocide than Hotel Rwanda. (Plus, apparently it was filmed with Rwandans in Rwanda.) The movie should be in your local video store, if you're interested in seeing it. It's very good.
Most Rwandans have seen both films, because every April, they remember the genocide. For two weeks, TV stations only carry movies and programs on the genocide, because the government fears that if the Rwandan people regard the genocide as history, they will be doomed to repeat it. And many people believe we're in the eye of the storm.
As a post script, if anyone was ever interested in what those kids are singing at the end of Hotel Rwanda (that song with Wyclef Jean), in Kinyarwanda, it means this: "The sun will rise once again over Rwanda."