Hotel Rwanda Film Review
Hotel Rwanda is a movie, which is full of violence on the one hand, and humaneness on the other hand. In the environment where the death of one person does not mean anything, the heroic death of the main character deeply impresses a viewer. Looking at his adherence to principles, self-sacrifice and valor, it is impossible to stay calm and indifferent. Hotel Rwanda is unique comparing to other movies of the similar topic, such as Schindler’s List. The genocide in Rwanda is especially topical because it took place not so long time ago and its consequences are still visible. Living in the epicenter of the mass ethnic violence, the main character, Paul Rusesabagina, remains humane and tolerant. The movie Hotel Rwanda plunges the audience into the bloody atmosphere of Rwanda in 1994. At the same time, it reveals how people are able to resist common madness and struggle against it. Thus, movie discusses two main themes. Firstly, it speaks of the genocide of the Tutsi people and ethnic conflict in Rwanda. Nevertheless, the main theme is a heroic deed of Paul Rusesabagina who saved many refugees without regard to their ethnicity.
The ethnic cleansing that is illustrated in the movie has a long history. The conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu began long time ago, and “the “us” and “them” division has deep root in Rwanda’s history and is based on Hamitic myth” (Douge-Roth 14). Douge-Roth (15) states that Tutsi were considered more intellectual and European-minded than Hutu who were Bantu people. However, when the colonial government left the country, these tensions became only stronger, and it did not take much time to make the situation uncontrolled. The massacre between two nations influenced all people, but while some of them took part in this madness, many other people only wanted stay alive. The only target of these people was to escape from that hell. It was the massacre for both nations, not only for the Tutsi. Mamdani (5) reports about 10 to 50 thousand of killed Hutu and 500,000 to one million of Tutsi victims. During the ethnic cleansing, Hutu administration did not use any sophisticated weapons of mass killing; they only used the hatred of Hutu towards Tutsi. Almost one million of Tutsi people were merely slaughtered with long knives by people who were blind with their hatred. On the other hand, most Hutu were killed only because they refused to aggressive approach of Hutu administration (Rusesabagina). This hatred and atmosphere of massacre is accurately depicted by the moviemakers of Hotel Rwanda. The moviemakers do not hide this extreme violence from the viewers. Nevertheless, a great number of violent scenes in the movie cannot illustrate all that cruelty and inhumanity that happened in real life.
The story of Rusesabagina is especially impressive because his wife was Tutsi, and he was Hutu. It caused many disputes among aggressive Hutu. His case was not unique and there were many Hutu men who married Tutsi women as it was supposed to decrease tensions between these two nations. However, most Hutu were asked to kill their Tutsi wives, and almost all of them died in Rwanda (Mamdani 4). Saving the life of his Tutsi wife, Rusesabagina risks his and her life. Nevertheless, Paul Rusesabagina is very determined and also has incredible talent of negotiation that allows him not only to keep his family in safety, but also to receive and hide refugees.
The personality of the main character requires more comprehensive and deep analysis. On the one hand, Rusesabagina saves hundreds women and children who belong to Tutsi. He risks his reputation, life and safety of his family when he decides to give shelter to refugees. He admits that his and his family members’ bodies would have joined the thousands in the east-running rivers floating toward Lake Victoria. On the other hand, he manages to do it because of his good connections with corrupted Hutu administration and military people. He uses all legal and illegal methods, starting with bribery and ending with blackmail. Nevertheless, only Paul’s resoluteness and strength of will allow him to use his status and opportunities for the sake of refugees.
The movie shows that even one individual can change the history and become a hero. Rusesabagina was just a manager in a hotel, but not a military or state official. At the same time, when those who had power to change the situation were indifferent, the main character could not give up the fight. His role in the movie was not only in hiding and saving people, but in being a lone human in the wild society without principles and mercy. Another great feature of this movie is that it was the first film in Western cinematography that depicted the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 (Douge-Roth 29). Actually, due to Hotel Rwanda, many people all over the world finally found that there is such country as Rwanda and that it experienced this dreadful crime against humanity. In this case, it is difficult to underestimate the great impact of this movie on the social mind. None of social media would inform the humanity better than this movie. However, it is hard to deny that some historical facts might have been omitted or distorted in this movie, as well as in any other popular historical movie.
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In fact, it took ten years for the whole world to discover what happened in Rwanda in 1994. It is especially astonishing in the age of informational and technological progress. Thompson (14) says that “everybody was looking at Yugoslavia in 1994, but nobody came to Rwanda”. Both local and international media failed to show the world that one million people were slaughtered only because of their ethnic descent in Rwanda. Thompson (15) views the problem through the racial context, considering that white European Yugoslavians were more preferable for the international community than black Africans in godforsaken Rwanda. The movie describes both white people who ignore the massacre and those who are involved in it. However, white people seem to be more bothered with their own safety.
At the same time, not only media, but the whole international community failed in Rwanda in 1994. The corps of the United Nations were set in Rwanda; however, they did not do a single thing to stop the slaughter. In Hotel Rwanda, the colonel of the UN corps is restrained by orders from the administration. He cannot interfere in the conflict, and only observes how thousands of people are killed around him. Rusesabagina suggests that Tutsi refugees “thought that UN soldiers would save them from the mobs and their machetes”, but they were mistaken. Thus, the movie also discusses the inability of the UNO to help people and keep peace in the world. There were many disputes on disadvantages of the United Nations to do their duties, but in Hotel Rwanda, it is illustrated especially accurately. It should not have been difficult for UN corps to take control over the situation when it was possible, but the higher commandment preferred to stay neutral and observe one the bloodiest manslaughter in the 1990s.
Hotel Rwanda is an excellent historical movie. First of all, it is significant because it explores the area, which was at first of low interest to the public. The moviemakers managed to draw attention of the whole world to the bloodiest massacre in the 1990s. The problem is that it was done only ten years after one million people were brutally killed. Secondly, it explores important themes, which range from personal experience of a hotel owner to the problems of ethnic relations and inability of world organizations to set peace in the country. All these themes are equally important and deserve to be discussed more comprehensively. Paul Rusesabagina manages to create a small shelter of mercy and humanity in his hotel. For millions of viewers, Hotel Rwanda will be remembered as a stronghold of human rights and self-sacrifice in the ocean of violence and cruelty. The illustration of the conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu is so accurately depicted by actors that none of the viewers can stay indifferent in this atmosphere of madness and violence. The historical foundation of the conflict is too strong and people of Rwanda are too attached to it. Finally, the helplessness of the UN corps also opens an additional topic for disputes as it is an old problem of all world organizations who name themselves the peacemakers. Hotel Rwanda is a thought-provocative movie that makes a viewer think not only about the concrete conflict, but also about personal dignity, ethnic tensions and international policy.
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Dauge-Roth, Alexandre. Writing and Filming the Genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda. Lexington Books, 2010. Print.
Hotel Rwanda. Dir. Terry George. Lions Gate, 2004. Film.
Mamdani, Mahmood. When Victims Become Killers. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001. Print.
Rusesabagina, Paul. An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography. Penguin Group, 2006. Print.
Thompson, Allan. The Media and the Rwanda Genocide. London: Pluto Press, 2007. Print.