Survivors pan Rwanda war films

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.

    In 100 days, 800,000 mostly Tutsi Rwandans were killed

    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, are inacccurate and got the story wrong.

    Jean Pierre Rucogoza, a 47-year-old university lecturer and genocide survivor, says: "My conclusion was that both movies are another Hollywood fiction geared at making money."

    Rucogoza, who has watched Sometimes in April and Hotel Rwanda, 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 said.

    Different reality

    Many who lived through Rwanda's bloodshed say they are happy that the films remind the world of the tragedy, but say the reality was different.
    Francois Ngarambe, president of a Rwandan genocide survivors' association, said: "Sometimes in April is characterised by very serious inaccuracies and omissions which made most survivors say 'it is not our story'."

    Survivors say the films are not
    their stories

    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 April 1994.

    Ten years later, he learns of their death from his brother, who was a presenter on a hate radio station urging on the killers 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.

    Shooting Dogs

    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.

    "There was never a situation, not at that school or anywhere, where a white person refused to be evacuated. That is a pure lie"

    Wilson Gabo,
    Rwanda's Survivors Fund coordinator

    It was filmed at the Ecole Technique Officielle, a school in the capital where Belgian UN soldiers abandoned more than 2,000 Tutsis to be slaughtered by machete-wielding killers.
    The film has also been criticised 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 expatriate colleagues.

    Many senior church leaders were complicit in some of Rwanda's killings, and the depiction angered many who blame the UN and Western powers for failing to intervene.
    Wilson Gabo, a co-ordinator of Rwanda's Survivors Fund charity, said "there was never a situation, not at that school or anywhere, where a white person refused to be evacuated. That is a pure lie".
    Artistic licence

    The makers concede a degree of artistic licence with the facts of what actually happened at the school, risking inflaming tempers in a society where memories are raw.

    Amid international inaction, the genocide was ended by Paul Kagame, Rwanda's president, who led a rebel army from Uganda to seize power.

    President Kagame has also
    criticised Hotel Rwanda

    He has recently joined the film debate, criticising the Oscar-nominated Hotel Rwanda.

    Released last year, Terry George's film stars Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina, the Hutu manager of a Kigali hotel where more than 1,200 people survived the killings taking place outside.

    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 said last week.

    "Even those that are true do not merit the level of highlight."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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