Scott Hanselman

Hotel Rwanda

June 4, '05 Comments [5] Posted in Movies | Africa
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Just finished watching Hotel Rwanda. Great film, Cheadle was clearly deserving of an Oscar. Everyone should see it. The core story was powerful and what Paul Rusesabagina did was amazing.

That said, a few things struck me as odd or of note.

The movie opens with Yvonna Chaka Chaka singing her remix of Umqombothi (a song I've got in my car). This is a South African song about a specific kind of beer. Then one of the main characters, a Tutsi, tries to sing along with this Zulu song inserting Kinyarwandan words. I do have to plead ignorance to whether or not Zulu pop music is listened to in Rwanda, but it did strike my wife and I as odd. That said, it is a song about beer and Paul continually uses beer to bribe the locals and the General, so it does fit thematically, but there's precious few Anglophones who would notice the parallel.

Additonally None of the main characters speaks a word of Kinyarwanda or French, even when they are alone, which also smacks as a little ingenuine. Also, a scene at the end includes a large billboard with the names and pictures of the missing children. Their names seem to be primarily composed of South African Zulu names, like Vusi or Ntombi. I know that there are Bantu influences on Rwandan culture, but I don't know how far it extends. The Bantu influence is thought to extend througout much of southern Africa. However, I figure that since the movie was filmed in South Africa that the prop folks just used the local names.

I'd be interested in a native or ex-pat Rwandan's point of view on these points. I need to dig more deeply into this stuff.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Monday, June 06, 2005 7:24:37 PM UTC
That movie was amazing.
Monday, June 06, 2005 7:58:37 PM UTC
I was moved when I saw this movie as well. Very violent, but it was good to get me out of my comfort zone (growing up here in America doesn't do much, unfortunately, to create an awareness of what realities exist in other parts of this world). Getting caught up in the particulars of names and use of language is probably unimportant in the grand scheme of things - as you said, "[t]he core story was powerful and what Paul Rusesabagina did was amazing;" to me, that is what matters. It is unfortunate that more people don't see this movie, or care to see it (I have co-workers that would rather ignore the realities that this movie portrays). Foxx may have been good at portraying Charles, and that is awesome, but this movie has a story that really matters (not to belittle Ray Charles!), IMNSHO.

Monday, June 06, 2005 11:23:41 PM UTC
I would not be surprised that Umqombothi was listened to in Rwanda as both Yvonne and Brenda, as you might well know, were superstars in Africa.
Dax
Wednesday, June 08, 2005 6:58:29 PM UTC
Dude it's a movie. Remember *based* on a true story! Don't kill yourself over the details or you won't be satisfied with any movie.
Anona
Friday, June 24, 2005 12:40:50 PM UTC
I am Ugandan and my wife is Rwandese and I've had rather negative feedback from her friends and family. Having first hand knowledge of the culture and people we find it very hard to relate to this movie because of it's many cultural inacuracies. I can however appreciate how informative it would be to an otherwise sheltered american.
As much as it is *based* on a true story you need to apreciate that the less accurate it is the less reliable a representation of the story it becomes. You can never 100% re-create such a mjor and complex event on screen however I feel certain details important to us like accents and culture should not be ignored. I compare it to the Germans making a film on the American civil war in german and through ignorance, failing to communicate some of the core american cultural values that charachterised it.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.