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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Film Review: Hotel Rwanda

"Western Government's - hang your head in shame"

Hotel Rwanda (12a)
DIr. Terry George

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Hotel Rwanda is one of those films that should be universally seen – like Schindler's List or The Pianist, it deals with a true-life story of one man faced with an unimaginable situation when war sweeps through his country. Don Cheadle plays Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who risked everything to house and protect over a thousand Tutsis refugees from certain death during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. While the world looked on but failed to intervene – almost a million people were killed in less than 100 days. Hotel Rwanda is not an easy film to watch, especially here in the West, it is a stark reminder of a situation where news of the men, women and children being massacred in their homes barely registered until after the fact.

Director Terry George’s powerful political melodrama is an emotional distillation what made one man who stand up and make a difference. Rusesabagina was one of many ordinary people that became heroes through their actions of courage, love and compassion, in stark contrast to the UN, the government and even actions of the churches. The ongoing investigation into the war crimes committed in the name of sectarian hatred continues to unearth atrocities amongst Rwandans (60% of the country are Catholic), and it has been found that the Catholic hierarchy in Rwanda had close ties to extremist politicians in the run up to the genocide. One recent example is the trial of parish priest, Father Athanase Seromba, accused of directing a massacre of 2,000 Tutsis from among his own congregation.

The fact that this genocide was allowed to rampage unchecked across the land while the UN were ordered to stand by and then withdrawn altogether is well captured and presented. Nick Nolte has the thankless role of Colonel Oliver, the UN commander who can only bluster on the sidelines as the corpses of the innocent stack up in the roads. There is an effective build up to the all out madness, we get to see life at the hotel where all appears normal, but something is very wrong just under the calm surface. Whilst the rich and powerful white tourists enjoy the facilities, tension is growing amongst the staff and viewers get to hear the malicious propaganda being broadcast over the airwaves. The fuse on the powder keg of hatred has already been lit and before the viewer can get used to the ‘normal’ life presented, we are in the thick of the bloodshed.

Hotel Rwanda is a necessary wake up call to all those who pay little heed to what is going in other countries. Can we simply turn a blind eye to outrages and injustices inflicted on our fellow man, and then pray for the survivors? Surely God wants people to stand up and make a difference – even from afar? As one of the journalists in the films says when asked what people will do when the see the news footage he has filmed: “We'll watch it on TV, say 'that it's terrible,' and go right on eating our dinner.” I for one don’t want to be one of those people.

Darkmatt Rating: ööö (challenging)

"thanks for the lack of military protection... assholes"

1 comment:

rach said...

I think one of the bits that hit me most was when the UN brings in those buses to take all the white people away - none of them refused to go. Even those who were working in the orphanages just left the kids with Paul and got on the bus. Surely there was potential for human shield-style action here? A kind of "hey Western world, we don't want to be airlifted out of here because it'll still be happening after we're gone. We want you to do something about it and we're staying until you do."