November 23, 2004
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Most accounts I’ve heard of the genocide in Rwanda include at least one mention of Paul Rusesabagina, a Kigali hotel owner whose derring-do saved hundreds from the slaughter. If you haven’t heard his story, Philip Gourevitch tells it in this excellent episode of This American Life (it’s the third story, and starts about 38 minutes in). Basically, Rusesabagina uses three unlikely weapons — liquor, influence, and the telephone — in his battle against the unthinkable. But he employs a wonderful savvy and a knack for misdirection. “I think the key thing about Paul,” Gourevitch says, “is his instinct that everything is negotiable.”
Paul’s story, and (I hope) the story of the genocide, will be told in theaters for the first time next month, with Don Cheadle in the main role. The main site is awful, but it’s got clips from the film (hint: to turn off the music, click the microscopic text in the upper-right corner), and offers an excellent repository of links about the tragedy that I hadn’t seen (like this page, where you can hear an incomprehensible-but-nevertheless-chilling sample of the RTLNM radio network, the chief instrument the killers used to incite the genocide).