Ep. 158 – Terry George: Hotel Rwanda and the Art of Suffering

terry george interview

If I didn’t listen to my pain, I’d be dead.

I’ve interviewed hundreds of “successful” people. And when they look back, they see two things: struggle and story.

These are hero stories — choose yourself stories.

Directed by pain, they found passion.

Because they listened.

I was alone, on the floor, broke, desperate. Hopeless.

I ignored the pain. I wanted to die. And then, something shifted.

But you don’t need to hit rock bottom to be successful.

You just need something that ignites you.

“There’s a moment, a chemistry, where people find a spark… something inside you triggers greatness,” Terry George said.

He wrote and directed the award winning film, Hotel Rwanda, and the upcoming film, The Promise, about a love story during the Armenian Genocide.

“I’m not interested in suffering,” he says.

But he is. “I’m interested in alleviating it.”

He grew up Catholic during Ireland’s struggle for civil rights. “I got beaten up in playgrounds and shit like that,” Terry says. “There was definitely a sense that you were not welcome to put it mildly.”

“That was was my education,” he says.

He never thought about turning something horrific into a movie.

But that’s exactly what he did. Through film, he connects us to human frailty, vulnerability and fear. He calls it “a universal language.”

And that’s the art of suffering.

Resources and Links:

  • Watch Hotel Rwanda and Terry’s upcoming film, The Promise
  • Mentioned in today’s interview: The Tunnel, My Left Foot, Working Class Heroes
  • Bonnie Smith

    When I read this interview before listening to the interview. I immediately shot this off to my daughter who is going through her own personal suffering as a grown woman. After listening to the interview. I realized I was reading between the lines the message…I made my children as young adults what Schindler’s List, The Hotel Rwanda, I had a hard time going back to the Killing Fields. But my message to my children was not so much about the suffering of the heros but more that the key to compassion is connecting with other peoples sufferings.I wanted them to develop compassion to become a hero in their everyday life.

    • gavin

      Very well said, Bonnie. I bet your children do this.

      • Bonnie Smith

        Well, actually one of them heard me very well, a beautiful person. He credited his sufferings to the strong and compassionate man he became. He was a hero to me but he left this world way too early. Another child, he tries to hide is compassion and be the tough guy, but its there. My daughter she struggles the most. She knows the importance of being compassionate but can’t seem to apply it. Over and over when she goes through her chaotic life, I remind her that the greatest happiness comes when you put yourself aside and do something for others. She acts like she gets it, but I look at her life and I know she’s not there yet. I do believe she will have to reach her bottom because she always learns best the hard way and she’ll be the first to tell you. I don’t try to get them to watch movies as much as I try to demonstrate compassion to them and others. I give them unconditional love. I know they are watching so I don’t have to say anything.

        • gavin

          I’m very sorry for the loss of your son. Being a parent can be so painful at times. But caring still always trumps the alternative.

  • gavin

    I tend to think of sparks, breakthroughs as very profound events. Mr George convinces me otherwise. In fact, they can be small gestures on top of many other smalls, definitively drawing a person to commit every fiber of their being to a particular cause. I know this because I’m there now. I wasn’t one hour ago. By George, you’ve done it again. Again at a very local level. James, every day you’re adding something to your force. A force that is devoted do empowering lives too scared to ignite on their own. Beautiful way of life.