Hotel Rwanda debuted in the United States on December 26, 2004 in seven screens (Box Office Mojo). With an estimated budget of $17.5 million, it went on to gross $23,472,900 in the United States and $33,882,243 worldwide (Box Office Mojo). Based on a true story, the film tells the story of how Paul Ruseabagina, played by Don Cheadle, who as a hotel manager goes on to save over a thousand Tutsi refugees, including his own family, during the Rwanda genocide in 1994. The Rwanda genocide of 1994, in which an estimated 800,000 people were murdered, was one of the most bloodiest episodes in history in which over the span of one hundred days, extremists of the majority Hutu population slaughtered their minority Tutsi population in a political uprising after a Hutu president was supposedly murdered by Tutsis (this was never proved); and Tutsis had controlled the country for years with Belgians (“Rwanda: How the Genocide Happened”). Overall the genocide was the result of ethnic conflict within the country as well. Also, according to Production Notes from of the film, what made the Rwanda genocide even more devastating was that no country intervened on behalf of the Rwandan people despite it being broadcasted by news programs all over the world (United Artists 4). In one line of the film, Paul talks with Jack Danglish, a reporter who is capturing all the events of the genocide for the news broadcasts. In the conversation, Paul expresses positive remarks towards the footage expecting that it will cause people to feel the need to intervene. However, Jack’s response is: “I think if people see this footage they’ll say, “Oh my God that’s horrible,” and then go on eating their dinners” (Hotel Rwanda). Therefore, this line expresses how the lives of black people are broadcasted all over the news, yet no matter how tragic, it does not incite sympathy; it is just something to look at before they go on with the daily lives.
Nevertheless, despite these nonchalant feelings toward the Rwandans during the actual genocide, Director and co-writer Terry George along with co-writer Keir Pearson and Producer A. Kitman Ho (all of whom are white) decided to make this film because, according to George, they felt it was the “perfect story to be told on film” and felt nothing but excitement to work on this project (United Artists 3). George described the film as: “a riveting political thriller, a deeply moving romance, and, most of all, a universal story of the triumph of a good man over evil” (United Artists 3). George’s response to this film is equivalent to the same response of the character Jack to media coverage of the genocide in the film. When the genocide was going on, as no one intervened even though they saw it on the news, reflects a lack of concern and care for the black body; the black body is not valued. However, after the genocide, ten years and 800,000 dead black bodies later, $17.5 million is spent to make a film that will create a visual performance out of the wounded black body. Then, although it was a horror story for the Rwandans who experienced this genocide, their pain and hurt is denied and written off into a story categorized as a drama and described as a moving romance.
Furthermore, during the making of the film, the true horror of the genocide was avoided (even thought it really was a horror in reality) in order for the film to appeal to a mass audience. When approaching the genocide up close Ho states: “we tried to create this bizarre, surreal atmosphere, to let viewers feel the psychological terror of the genocide without going close on the slaughter” (United Artists 6). In one scene, which is the most graphic display of the physical violence, we open from the back seat of a truck where Paul and another hotel associate are driving on their way back to the hotel. It is misty and foggy so we cannot see out the windows or the road. It is a bumpy road and Paul thinks they have gone off the side of the road. So they stop the truck and when Paul gets out the truck, he falls and on to what he discovers is a woman’s body. Fog is all around them, thus adding to the surreal and bizarre experience, but when it clears and Paul looks up at the road ahead, he sees a road of dead bodies. It is quiet except for the sounds of crickets and music that sounds like the wind alludes to the dreamlike quality of the scene. This scene it displays the murderous actions of the genocide, but at the same time, by adding this surreal dreamlike quality to the scene, it removes the viewer from the actually pain and terror of these black bodies. It writes off what should be a real and horrifying experience into a dream that is over when the scene cuts back to the inside of the hotel where even though Paul is very disturbed of what he just witnessed, then we are shown little girls dancing by the pool (Hotel Rwanda). The film displays how even a genocide can be made into a visually striking performance by white producers to appeal to a general audience (which includes white viewers). It was also a performance of which was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Writing, Original Screenplay (The Internet Movie Database).