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Hotel Rwanda - Paul Rusesabagina Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. What did it feel like when you saw the film for the first time and relived those experiences?
A.
When I saw the almost finished product it was not very exciting because I had followed the movie right from the beginning, from the time I sat with Terry and his co-writer, Keir Pearson, to the post-production, which took place here in London. But the most exciting time was in Toronto on September 11, 2004, I was so excited and moved to see the way that people, or the audience, welcomed the message.

Q. Paul, obviously you're not Oscar nominated, but without you there wouldn't be any nominations for this film, so I would imagine you are as thrilled and excited as the rest of the cast and crew?
A.
Certainly, because Hotel Rwanda is my lfe story, it is an honour that at long last my message is going to be widespread. So I will be in Los Angeles and hope my tuxedo is ready!

Q. How do you think this film has been received in Rwanda? Will it heal any wounds? And Nobel Prize, has it been mentioned to you?
A.
We have not yet taken this film to Rwanda.
Terry: Because of the publicity circus we've been on, we haven't had the time.
A. But according to what I hear from many different individuals in Rwanda, people are very much excited, and we intend to screen it in the national stadium so that most of the people can see it.
I believe that Hotel Rwanda is a message of hope for Rwandese. We can see that even in such madness, people can try to be correct towards each other. A Hutu and a Tutsi can live together without any problems and so far we haven't had any problems.
As for the Nobel Prize, I have heard so far many words but it would come as a pleasure as well as a reward and maybe as a recognition. It would be a pleasure.
Terry: Well I've already suggested that he should be nominated for it. I don't know the process.
Don: I can get you one! [laughs]
Terry: Paul deserves all the recognition he can get, because in terms of heroism, for an ordinary man to use his working skills to pull this off when the rest of the world abandoned him is the greatest form of heroism. Trying to even recreate this in the film, the level of fear and the horror of what was going on outside the door, just struck a chord with me about what Paul was able to do. So I hope we build the momentum to recognise the man.

Q. Through the superb playing of Don, we saw you collapse following the river road scene. How did you feel when you saw the body count?
A.
That specific scene was created. Because that time, during the genocide, I never had the opportunity to be alone or the time to think about what I went through. I was always busy running up and down, I couldn't have time to be on my own, except the time when I was sending faxes, phoning alone in the office. That was the only time I got to myself.
But I believe that the reason why Terry created that specific scene was to show the audience that Paul, during such a madness, was alone, isolated by each and every person.
Terry: When I talked to Paul I asked him about the loneliness of it, and the abandonment, and also the sense of fear and anger. Along with what he told me then, the river road scene, as we call it, when Paul encounters the bodies, that actually happened to him and Tatiana straight after they escaped from the hotel, when they drove south to try and find Tatiana's family, who were subsequently all dead. Paul described to me driving along the road which was just lined with bodies for a mile and nothing but the sound of dogs eating those bodies. So I took his experience from that and moved it into the middle of the film because I needed to bring the audience out to experience what we called the heart of darkness, the middle of the genocide, when that systematic slaughter was going on.
So these scenes were combined to evoke that sense of loneliness. But that's the biggest thing that I had to invent. The amazing thing about Paul's story is that all those other things in the hotel were what happened. And the craziest things, you know, the family hiding in the bath, Roger going next door and finding the family, the soldier coming up and ordering him out in half an hour, all that was just the way it played out.
So it was just the need to create, to get the audience out on that one particular occasion, in the middle of it, so I moved it around.

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