Three films in two years about Rwanda's
genocide have shocked Western audiences with the scale and
savagery of the slaughter, but many survivors in the tiny
central African nation are unimpressed.
They say the big-screen depictions of the carnage, when
about 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were butchered
in 100 days of state-sponsored killings, have got the story
People pay their respects in front of dozens of coffins containing the remains of more than 600 victims of the 1994 genocide, during a commemoration in Kigali, Rwanda April 7, 2006. Three films in two years about Rwanda's genocide have shocked Western audiences with the scale and savagery of the slaughter, but many survivors in the tiny central African nation are unimpressed with the big-screen's wrong depictions of the carnage. Picture taken April 7, 2006. To match feature Rwanda-Genocide REUTERS/Themistocles Hakizimana
"My conclusion was that both movies are another Hollywood
fiction geared at making money," said Jean Pierre Rucogoza, a
47-year-old university lecturer and genocide survivor who has
watched "Sometimes in April" and "Hotel Rwanda."
Rucogoza lost 11 relatives in the killings. In an interview
on the eve of the 12th anniversary of the genocide earlier this
month, he said he believed the films partly represented the
West's conscience rearing its head too late.
"But, unfortunately, they are also being used as a
money-minting tool," he told Reuters. Many who lived through
Rwanda's bloodshed say they are happy the films remind the
world of the tragedy, but say the reality was different.
'NOT OUR STORY'
"'Sometimes in April' is characterized by very serious
inaccuracies and omissions which made most survivors say 'it is
not our story'," said Francois Ngarambe, president of a Rwandan
genocide survivors' association.
Directed by Raoul Peck, "Sometimes in April" tells of the
plight of a Hutu soldier who is separated from his Tutsi wife
and two children as violence engulfs the capital Kigali in
Ten years later, he learns of their deaths from his
brother, who was a presenter on a hate radio station urging the
killers on, and is now facing an international trial.
Ngarambe said the film wrongly portrayed the genocide as
largely the work of militia, neglecting the careful planning by
the Hutu extremists in the government and the military.
The latest screen take on the genocide, and the only to be
filmed on location, Michael Caton-Jones's "Shooting Dogs," had
its world premiere at a stadium in Kigali last month.
It was filmed at the Ecole Technique Officielle, a school
in the capital where Belgian U.N. troops abandoned more than
2,000 Tutsis to be slaughtered by machete-wielding killers.
It has also been criticized by some survivors, particularly
for one scene where a white Roman Catholic priest decides to
stay with the refugees, rather than be evacuated along with his
Many senior church leaders were complicit in some of
Rwanda's killings and the depiction angered many who already
blame the United Nations and Western powers for failing to
SYMBOLS OF HEROISM
"There was never a situation, not at that school or
anywhere, where a white person refused to be evacuated. That is
a pure lie," said Wilson Gabo, a coordinator of Rwanda's
Survivors Fund charity.
The makers concede a degree of artistic license with the
facts of what actually happened at the school, risking
inflaming tempers in a society where memories are still raw.
Amid international inaction, the genocide was finally ended
by Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, who led a rebel army from
Uganda to seize power. He has recently joined the film debate,
sharply criticizing the Oscar-nominated "Hotel Rwanda."
Released last year, Terry George's movie stars Don Cheadle
as Paul Rusesabagina, the Hutu manager of a Kigali hotel where
more than 1,200 people survived the killings taking place
Kagame, a Tutsi, said the South African-filmed portrayal of
Rusesabagina was a "falsehood," and he would not have picked
him as a symbol of heroism in those tragic times.
"Some of the things actually attributed to this person are
not true," Kagame told reporters last week. "Even those that
are true do not merit the level of highlight."
Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited