July 4, 2012

Hotel Rwanda - A Gut-Wrenching Film About The Horrors of Genocide


                          Our World is so convulsed by violence and war that many people are fatigued with compassion. Sufferings, loss, and death on a large scale becomes quite natural, so we tend to narrow our attention to the circle of our friends and family.  This may help explain what happened in 1994 when many countries failed to respond to the cries for help coming out of Rwanda. A long boiling conflict between the ruling Hutu tribe and Tutsi rebels turned into civil war, and 1 million Rwandans, many of them women and children, were murdered in the space of three months.

                          Hotel Rwanda was the first main-stream film to approach the subject, which tells the story of hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina. He sheltered more than 1200 people during the chaos. A hero can be a lot of things, like a professional risk-taker, paid to dash fights that would make a normal human being quiver, or he can be a hotel manager, taking risks he loathes, and doing things that scare him to death. Hotel Rwanda serves a important purpose by explaining what happened in the African country during 1994 and personalizes the story, with the character of hotel manager.

Paul Rusesabagina
                  The Rwandan genocide is such a brutal and heart-wrenching subject that any attempt to turn into entertainment would risk insulting both the dead and the survivors. Wisely director Terry George has chosen a traditional Hollywood angle : We have seen this approach before, most notably in 'Schindler's List.' It gives the film-makers the freedom to inject suspense, humor, and romance into otherwise a melancholy material.  

                  Belgians, in colonial days, arbitrarily divided the Rwandan populace into two tribes, Hutu and Tutsi. The taller, lighter people were designated Tutsis and the smaller, darker people were designated Hutus. Generations later it was difficult and sometimes impossible to tell a Hutu from a Tutsi. Paul is a Hutu. His wife  is a Tutsi. When the Hutu death squads begin their homicidal rampage, Paul's wife is in danger, and so are his children. 


               Paul Rusesabagina, is portrayed with mesmerizing power by Don Cheadle. He had played as a supporting actor in movies such as "Boogie Nights," "Ocean's Eleven," but here he takes center stage, and he dominates it with a performance that is every bit as complex, varied and messy as the truth that lies behind it. It is also made clear that in "Hotel Rwanda," Rusesabagina was often a reluctant hero, more concerned with preserving his own job and family than with the plight of his neighbors. The great strength of the movie is that it's not about superhuman heroism but simply about human decency. 

                Director George makes every frame as gripping and entertaining, plunges viewers right into Paul's world as he provides the hotel's powerful guests with Scotch and Cuban cigars while dealing in the favors and inside knowledge. Most people don't know much about Rwanda, and that's something director Terry George  is attempting to change with this movie. Hotel Rwanda is brutal and shocking when it needs to be, but it also has great emotional scope and power. 


              Although Don Cheadle owns this movie, it would be unfair not to mention the supporting work of Sophie Okonedo, who brings depth and humanity to the part of Tatiana, Paul's wife. Nick Nolte plays a U.N. soldier assigned "as a peacekeeper, not a peacemaker." His disgust at the cowardice, and the racism displayed by the western leaders stays with you long after watching the movie.

              Civilizations are built on denial, hostility, and selfish yearnings and so it should be no surprise that when civilizations are collapsing, reasonable citizens should deny it's happening. Everything seems normal until a particular moment. Even the house across the street from Paul looks the same, except that the door is wide open, and everyone's dead inside. Paul is told to take a road by the river that is not being used, to get supplies from an African black-marketeer. They didn't tell the reason. The truck runs over some bumpy spots in the fog, which turn out to be the bodies of hundreds of dead Tutsis. Paul returns to the hotel in such a state of shock that he cannot recall how to put his tie on properly. He crumbles to the floor in a state of despair and paranoia.


                When Paul thanks a journalist named Jack for shooting the footage of genocide, he simply replies that, " I think if people see this footage, they'll say Oh, my God, that's horrible. And then they'll go on eating their dinners." This scene captures the abyss that exists between the rich and the poor, whites and blacks, those who have all the breaks and those who must suffer the most dreadful and terrifying circumstances of deprivation.

                   Hotel Rwanda is not without gore, but the director somehow conveys a bloodbath without showing one. Most of the film's violence is suggested, and so its terror are psychological. Even in the darkest times of our history, people of extraordinary character have lived among us, showing us a way out of the deplorable cycle of hatred and aggression. Paul Rusesabagina is one of those modern hero who stood against tyranny and oppression.

Trailer

Hotel Rwanda - IMDb 

11 comments:

panchalibolchi said...

I have watched this gripping movie several times. We spent some years in S Africa, so it was so easy to relate to the horrors!
The movie so neatly pinpoints racism that exists on the part of the West when it comes to Africa!!
Surely, a gut-wrenching movie!!
Wonderful review..thanks:)

Ruchi S said...

I am ordering the DVD now!
Well written, your writing emotes the film at another level.

Raghav said...

Great review. I've seen it and you are right that it's one of the few that brings about a different more realistic side of the horrors in Africa. Well made and acted it truly is an inspiring story.

Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

excellent review and what a film to watch. Very disturbing but aptly captures the horrors of genocide. You should sometime review Platoon

Rajnish said...

This is one of my favorite film. I watched this a long time ago. your post is great. I am sharing it on google plus for movie lovers :)
www.rajnishonline.blogspot.com

Remi de Souza said...

I remember, our Maliyali (Keralite) friend often used to say "You know buddies, the punishment in Hell is all are shown Hindi Movies 24x7." There was no TV then.

Arun said...

@panchalibolchi, Thanks for the comment.

@Ruchi S, Thanks for visiting. Give ur opinion on the movie, after watching it.

@Raghav, Thank You.

Arun said...

@Haricharan, Thanks for the comment. Will do a review as soon as i watched 'Platoon.'

@Rajnish, Thanks for the comment, and for sharing it with others. Keep visiting.

jaish_vats said...

This kind of hatred amongst men that pushes them to commit horrible crimes like murdering children is something I have never been able to understand.
Nice review

Cristeen said...

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shalinijena said...

So gripping right! I too watched it recently and loved it in that weird way. #HorrorsOfAfrica :o