frontline online: the triumph of evil

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Press Reaction

Los Angeles Times Howard Rosenberg

"... This jolting film from Mike Robinson and Ben Loeterman argues methodically--through interviews with key participants and intimate observers--that the West ignored warnings from a top Hutu political informant about the coming butchery that he himself had been ordered to help instigate, and that both the Clinton administration and the United Nations Security Council turned their backs on the victims, allowing Tutsis to be brutalized and exterminated en masse.

'The Triumph of Evil ' is a sober, systematic report that, while mesmerizing, penetrates to the bone without deploying false sentiment to juice emotion and manipulate viewers. On a human level, though, its overlapping of words and pictures has a heart-aching impact.

Voiced by Will Lyman, TV's finest narrator, 'The Triumph of Evil' is more evidence of the 16-year-old 'Frontline' being unquestionably the medium's best source for investigative documentaries, this film following its earlier studies of U.S. foreign policy in this region."

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Bill Steigerwald

"... If you can watch 'The Triumph of Evil' to its end, you may not be convinced that America should rush in to stop the bloody wars in Bosnia, Kosovo or anywhere else so-called human beings are still slaughtering themselves like it's 1099. But the edgy, bitter documentary will help you understand one thing that is still true in the 1990s: It remains disturbingly easy for good men in America and Europe to do nothing - even when faced with evidence of the kind of 'pure, unambiguous genocide ' that occurred in Rwanda.

'Frontline's' producers, Mike Robinson and Ben Loeterman, don't feign neutrality, and they don't hide their distaste for President Clinton. Their 60-minute horror story has no heroes, just victims, and when it ends, you may have trouble deciding which characters you hate the most."

New York Times Walter Goodman

"The horror with which Joseph Conrad stamped Africa a century ago persists in Tuesday night's 'Frontline' report on the 1994 slaughter in Rwanda ...

In a hundred days, 800,000 people were killed. 'The Triumph of Evil' makes little attempt to give the official arguments for inaction. Instead, a State Department spokeswoman is heard making legalistic distinctions between 'genocide' and 'acts of genocide,' while the Hutu radio fueled passions: 'All Tutsis will perish. They will disappear from the earth. We strike them down with arms. Slowly, slowly, slowly, we kill them like rats.'

This strong indictment, the latest of 'Frontline's' examinations of American policy in Africa, ends with a devastating summation of Clinton administration policy by Philip Gourevitch, one of the correspondents relied on Tuesday night: 'It wasn't a failure to act. The decision was not to act. And at that, we succeeded greatly.'"

Boston Globe John Koch

"... The overarching, breathtaking crux of the film, in the stark words of writer Philip Gourevitch, is 'that anybody who believes the words 'never again' is deluding themselves dangerously about future holocausts.'...

Producer Mike Robinson shapes damning on-the-record testimony by credible, articulate, and forthcoming American, European, and African sources into a film that is both powerful indictment and fearful warning.

'The Triumph of Evil' isn't easy to watch, and not just because of its stomach-churning long shots of mass killing and foreboding message. Its persuasively detailed argument is woven mainly from the words of talking heads. However revealing, shocking, or heartfelt, they demand unflagging attention to fully appreciate the documentary. It's hard to imagine that if large audiences viewed reports like this, changes in policy wouldn't follow."

The Charlotte Observer Bill Keveney

"As attention focuses on President Clinton's impeachment over a sex and lying scandal, PBS's 'Frontline' tonight indicts the president, U.N. delegates and other world leaders for looking the other way during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

The charges are serious, but the most disturbing part of the presentation may be the pictures of dead bodies everywhere--bodies being hacked with machetes, bodies decaying in fields, bodies rushing down torrential rivers. Although TV lets us watch such matters from a safe distance, which can reduce the effect, these pictures are haunting to any viewer paying attention.

It sometimes seems like entertainment has pushed serious issues off the small screen, but programs such as 'Frontline' still take on the tough topics.

The one reservation with 'Triumph of Evil'--and it's a major one--is that there seems to have been little effort to seek explanations from the White House or the Pentagon. For charges this serious, that is a must."

New York Daily News Eric Mink

"Not a single person interviewed for 'Frontline: The Triumph of Evil' raises his voice, yet anger and bitterness flow through their comments like rivers of hot blood. Eight-hundred-thousand preventable murders in 100 days will do that to you.

'The Triumph of Evil,' a co-production of the BBC and 'Frontline' by Mike Robinson and Ben Loeterman, concedes one point: It is possible that the UN's decision, three months before the killings began, not to authorize a seizure of weapons from Hutu militias was a good-faith miscalculation.

Not so the refusal to intervene when the killing began. Not so the decision to withdraw UN forces when the massacres spread. Not so the politically tainted reluctance of the U.S. and others to use the word genocide, even when genocide clearly was what was occurring. And not so the U.S.' deadly delay several weeks later in getting UN troops properly equipped to return to Rwanda."

Chicago Tribune Steve Johnson

"Never again, was the world's solemn promise after the Holocaust

This hour long edition of the first-rate PBS news series revisits the [Rwandan] massacre, finding a horrific hollowness in that oft-repeated vow. A co-production of the BBC and WGBH-Boston, it lays out exactly what was known about the Rwandan situation by the world community--the UN and governments with a supposed zeal for human rights, most prominently the U.S. and the United Kingdom--and when it knew it. The answer, laid out in interviews and newly public documents: enough that it should have known it had to do something. Instead, with Rwanda not on anybody's vital national interests lists and the Somalian debacle still fresh, it played Orwellian word games, desperately trying to avoid using the word "genocide," a word that had the power to mandate action. "

The Washington Post Nat Hentoff

"Adlai Stevenson used to call the American press's coverage of foreign affairs 'crisis journalism. ' A bloody overthrow of a government or a frightful force of nature would bring reporters and camera crews. But when the crisis ebbed, there was little, if any, follow-up.

Sometimes, Stevenson's critique works in reverse. In 1994 in Rwanda, nearly 1 million Tutsis were massacred by Hutus in about 100 days--at the rate of 5 1/2 corpses a minute

The most vivid and revealing report on how this genocide could have been prevented--or at least cut short--will be seen on 'Frontline '; 'The Triumph of Evil ' runs Jan. 26. Since 1983, 'Frontline ' has been the only television documentary series that equals the standards of Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly at CBS when network news was not limited primarily to breaking stories.

This particular program started with the BBC, but 'Frontline ' has added new material focusing on the American refusal to intervene in Rwanda."

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