In This Review

Hotel Rwanda
Hotel Rwanda
By Terry George
United Artists, 2004, 121 pp

Reviews of this excellent film have hailed the stellar performances of Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo and noted the great pathos of its true story: a Hutu hotel manager in Kigali saves the lives of over a thousand people during the 1994 Rwandan genocide by giving them refuge in the hotel and resorting to guile and bribery to protect them from the army and Hutu militias over a span of several months. As storytelling, the film succeeds brilliantly, despite some sentimental excesses. But does it convey an accurate account of the genocide? In fact, the film's depiction of events in Rwanda in the early 1990s is remarkably free of dramatic license. The narrative on ethnic conflict in Rwanda and the sequence of events is essentially sound (although it does imply that it was Hutu extremists who assassinated President Juvénal Habyarimana, a thesis that remains contested). The early scenes in town and at the hotel re-create the mood, sights, sounds, and social relations of a small African capital as well as any Hollywood movie ever has. One quibble: like too many other accounts of the genocide, the story concludes with the arrival of the Tutsi rebels in Kigali, implying that the killings stopped then. This end makes dramatic sense but conveys a historical inaccuracy, since, alas, the country endured many more months of intense violence, including tens of thousands of reprisal killings.