The Representation of the Rwandan Genocide in the Film Hotel Rwanda

Categories: Movie


The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 stands as one of the most harrowing chapters in human history, marked by immense human suffering and loss. The event saw the orchestrated extermination of nearly a million Rwandans in a span of just 100 days. The film "Hotel Rwanda," directed by Terry George and released in 2004, attempts to portray this tragic event by focusing on the efforts of a hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina, in sheltering and protecting Tutsi refugees at the Hôtel des Mille Collines during the violence.

Through an analysis of the film's narrative, cinematography, character portrayal, and historical accuracy, this essay explores how "Hotel Rwanda" represents the Rwandan Genocide and its lasting impact on society.

Narrative and Historical Accuracy

The film "Hotel Rwanda" takes a personal approach to telling the story of the Rwandan Genocide, focusing on the real-life events surrounding Paul Rusesabagina's efforts to save lives at the hotel. The narrative, while showcasing moments of heroism and resilience, does not shy away from depicting the horrors of the genocide.

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It accurately portrays the chaos, violence, and human tragedy that unfolded during those agonizing days. This approach aligns with the historical reality of the events, as numerous scholars have detailed the widespread violence and targeted killings that occurred during the genocide (Mamdani, 2002).

Cinematography and Atmosphere

The film's cinematography plays a crucial role in conveying the intense emotional impact of the Rwandan Genocide. Through the use of stark contrasts between the luxurious hotel setting and the outside world in turmoil, the filmmakers create a visually striking representation of the stark divide between safety and danger.

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The camera work captures the raw emotions of the characters, highlighting the terror and uncertainty they faced. This visual contrast symbolizes the stark reality of the situation and underscores the theme of human resilience amid adversity.

Character Portrayal and Ethical Dilemmas

"Hotel Rwanda" delves into the moral and ethical dilemmas that arise during times of crisis. The character of Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed by Don Cheadle, becomes a symbol of compassion and courage in the face of overwhelming odds. His decision to shelter Tutsi refugees within the confines of the hotel underscores the capacity of ordinary individuals to stand up against injustice. The portrayal of Rusesabagina's internal struggle reflects the broader ethical questions that arose during the genocide, forcing individuals to decide whether to prioritize their own safety or the lives of others (Bowen, 2003).

Cultural and Societal Impact

The film also addresses the complex interplay of societal and cultural factors that contributed to the genocide. It highlights the division between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups, rooted in colonial history and post-colonial power dynamics. The film's portrayal of radio broadcasts and propaganda underscores how media was manipulated to fuel hatred and violence against the Tutsi population. This depiction aligns with scholarly research on the role of media in spreading hate speech and inciting violence during the genocide (Chalk & Jonassohn, 1990).

Lessons and Remembrance

"Hotel Rwanda" not only serves as a historical account but also imparts valuable lessons about the consequences of indifference and the importance of preventing such atrocities in the future. The film prompts viewers to reflect on their own moral responsibilities and actions in the face of human suffering. It stands as a reminder that even in the darkest of times, individuals have the power to make a positive impact.


In conclusion, "Hotel Rwanda" effectively represents the Rwandan Genocide by blending historical accuracy, emotional storytelling, and thought-provoking character portrayals. The film succeeds in capturing the horror and tragedy of the genocide while emphasizing the power of compassion and human resilience. Through its narrative, cinematography, character portrayal, and attention to cultural and societal factors, the film serves as a powerful educational tool that encourages audiences to remember the past, acknowledge the complexities of history, and strive for a better future.

Updated: Aug 16, 2023
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The Representation of the Rwandan Genocide in the Film Hotel Rwanda. (2023, Aug 16). Retrieved from

The Representation of the Rwandan Genocide in the Film Hotel Rwanda essay
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