Saturday, February 12, 2005

--Alert---I don't know if this post will go through, Blogger is having issues----Hopefully, this post on Hotel Rwanda will be readable. If not, forget about reading blogs, tonite--GO see the movie instead!!

Last Saturday, I watched Hotel Rwanda, the story of Paul Rusesabagina's attempt to save hundreds of people who were escaping the genocide that erupted in Rwanda, in 1994. How he managed to shelter all of those people, and keep them safe, is the basis for this incredible film.

There is a riveting scene in the film where, as the Rwandans taking refuge in Hotel M. desperately await some sort of assistance from the European and American governments, they are introduced to the apathy of the people they are desperately waiting on assistance from.
People are huddled in a room in the Hotel, listening to the radio, hoping for some word on help, as the slaughter gets ever closer. What they hear is an American ambassador lobbying back and forth the definition of genocide with a reporter. The word is lobbied back and forth with the intensity and delicacy of a ball in a world class tennis match. If the killings in Rwanda are deemed genocide, then America may be obliged to intercede. If not, then it is just another tragedy..... So, Ms. Ambassador, "how many killings are necessary to constitute a genocide?"

If the producers only wanted to show what occurred in Rwanda in 1994, and it's effect on the people there, on a personal level, they did an excellent job. If their point was to show how European governments have strode into the continent of Africa, and have, under the guise of imperialism, taken what they could, and then abandoned the African population, well, that was hinted at. The basis for the slaughters in Africa, the basis that falls at the feet of those countries who have exploited the resources of Africa, and it's people, and who have left it susceptible to the type of inhuman horrors that are still in the news today, that is only hinted at.

Either way, Hotel Rwanda is an amazing flick that keeps you spellbound. People in the theatre did not move during it. No up and down for popcorn and snacks during Hotel Rwanda. It pulls you in and keeps you there. Hotel Rwanda is not gory; the producers did not pursue a shock and awe mentality. They did not drive their point home with blood, but with a subtlety that, when they did play their point, made your heart drop into your chest.
It's meaning floated in the practical, polite, and grammatically correct speech of the star of the movie, Don Cheadle. His acting was so perfect, so moving in it's quietness, and in his almost imperceptible facial movements that drove home the thoughts racing through his mind, that any obligatory violence was not necessary. His performance should, in a perfect world, place an Oscar in his hands. If I had voting rights, I know whom I would vote for.

I read a review of Hotel Rwanda in Saloon magazine before I wrote mine. I needed to check what I was feeling against the thoughts of someone else who had seen the movie
Mainly because there is a scene in Hotel Rwanda where Nick Nolte goes overboard while speaking with Don Cheadle's character.
I think that the producers meant for Nick Nolte's words to represent a tough talking, man to man, in your face reality, type conversation. But, I thought that it exposed the producers, no matter how good their intent in making this film was, well, it exposed their prejudice. Or, I don't know, maybe it is how men do relate to each other. But I still thought it was crude, rude, and insulting.
Considering how well the rest of the movie was scripted, that dialogue between Nick Nolte and Don Cheadle, is out of place. And it completely ignores how Don Cheadle played the main character. His strength, intelligence, insight, knowing, and compassion, were not recognized in that scene. It was an insult, not only in the words that were used, but also in the fact that the producers did not realize their insult. That they did not recognize that Paul Rusesabagina already guessed that he and the people of Rwanda were being abandoned. And that he already knew the reasons why. He had lived with those reasons his entire life. Were Nick Nolte's words intended for Paul R., or for the rest of the world?
The Saloon reviewer fell right into the tough guy talk trap. He considered that conversation between Nolte and Cheadles's character as crucial to the film. I didn't. If you watch the movie, you will know what scene I am referencing. It was derogatory. There are other ways to express yourself in times of crisis. Less SELFISH ways. Especially if you are the head of the UN force in a foreign country. Stop thinking about how YOU feel, and start thinking about what you can do to help, quickly.
And speaking of not needed, I like Nick Nolte, but…couldn't they have found someone else for that role? He does sort of redeem himself somewhat later in the movie, but…couldn't they have found someone else?

Joaquin Phoenix has an interesting role in Hotel Rwanda. He plays a cameraman sent down with a news crew to investigate the depth of the situation. His character, ultimately, was a microcosm of the world's reaction to the genocide in Rwanda. JP's performance, though, was flawless. And it lightly touched, along with one other scene in the film, on another issue prevalent in Africa, and in the world. On the subjugation of a woman to a man. On the value that is placed on a woman's life and sexuality in relation to a man's. Reflecting on the individuals who commit the violence, and the victims of that violence, it is always women and children who are left the most cruelly off, in the wars that men wage. But, that is a whole nother subject.

I think that the most disturbing aspect of HOTEL RWANDA, is that it is still so relevant today, over ten years later.

I hope that I do not turn you off from seeing the movie. EVERYONE should see this movie. Besides being a well-told and moving documentary, it is a story of hope and resoluteness in the face of adversity, a story of friendship, and yes, of the extraordinary courage that human beings, in so many parts of the world, display everyday.
Most importantly, it is a story of love. It is love that drives us to care about a stranger, to care for our friends, our family. Love will triumph in the end. And hopefully this movie will awake in everyone who sees it, a sense of humanity and solidarity with the people of Africa, of South America, of Asia, of all the areas in the world where horrific brutality erupts and devastates the ordinary people existing there. May we all find the love in our hearts for those people, so that we can then find the courage to try and alleviate and change the horror that greed and madmen wreck. We are more numerous than the madmen.

To that end, here is more info on ways in which you can help end the ongoing humanitarian crisises in Africa:
Doctors without Borders
Human Rights Watch
Amnesty International
Human Rights First
Hotel Rwanda, shouldn't still be relevant, today. Maybe that is the actual message that the producers of this movie were trying to make.


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