Watched “Hotel Rwanda” yesterday night.
And wondered how good the remaining movies had to be for “Hotel Rwanda ” not to have won “Best Picture” at the Oscars or how great had to be Jamie Foxx’s histrionics to have squeezed out Don Cheadle for the “Best Actor” award ?
A little background.
The Belgians were the colonial masters in Rwanda and they used the minority Tutsi tribesmen to rule the country. However when they vacated Rwanda, they passed power over to the majority Hutus—-who promptly began a massive ethnic cleansing of the minority Tutsis whom the Hutus blamed for their subjugation.
“Hotel Rwanda” is set amidst the Rwandan genocide of 1993. It tells the true story of a heroic hotel manager, himself Hutu, who saved the lives of 1200 Tutsis by providing them shelter and support in the 5 star hotel he managed and who , with a combination of intelligence, bribery, flattery, lies and blackmail got these people out of harm’s way.
However “Hotel Rwanda” is this and much more. It is an indictment of the impotence of the United Nations and pulls no punches in telling the real reason why the world watched the Rwandan genocide and did nothing—black African men are not worth the trouble of saving. One of the characters in the movie says these very words.
What he does not say is that, in addition, there is no oil in Rwanda and no Jewish people—-so there is absolutely no reason why the Western powers would even be moderately interested.
Having been in US for 6 years now this is one thing I have seen. The only lives whose loss makes news are (in order of preference)—1) Americans 2) Jewish people in Israel 3) Europeans. 4) Latin Americans. The rest of the world may, for all purposes, not exist.
Remember the Orissa floods of 2001 ? In the year end review on CNN, it did not even merit a mention even though an earthquake in Mexico which killed 50 people did.
20 people in Kashmir die from a terrorist bomb near a school. No mention.
2 Israelis die in Jerusalem. Breaking news.
Coming back to the movie, Paul Rusesabagina—the real life character on which this movie is based……all I can say is that if even half of this movie is true then this man should be a shoo-in for the Nobel peace prize (and not the other shmucks who win it year after year).
Nobility of the subject matter however does not necessarily mean a great movie. If it was, then “Kargil Line of Control” would be a classic.
“Hotel Rwanda” is one .
The movie’s greatness stands on two pillars— a taut script that is hard-hitting and gut-wrenching but never theatrical or maudlin, and a wondrous performance from Don Cheadle in the title role.
The man literally grows in his role. At the beginning of the movie, he is an efficient, worldly-wise manager of a 5 star hotel who is only concerned with the safety of his own family—when the neighborhood Tutsi gardener is “taken away” by the Army he closes the door and tells his wife that “this is not his business”. He also believes that should matters worsen, the Western powers would intervene.
Matter do get worse. But the Western powers are only concerned with evacuating their own citizens and when the protagonist realizes that black people like him are not the world’s concern, he rises to do the job the UN should have been doing. In the process, he puts everything he has to risk. This transformation from an everyday person to a hero is gradual, believable and deeply moving.
A movie like this runs the risk of being reduced to a hagiography—a kind of glorified documentary. But “Hotel Rwanda” does not because the director concentrates on the little things—-small moments of subtle brilliance.
For example, even as hell breaks loose around him with people are being macheted to death in the streets and refugees throng the once-proud 5 star hotel, Don Cheadle’s character still tries to maintain his normal routine of dressing impeccably, taking inventory of the beer and being courteous to all his “guests”—even the ones who are not paying.
But even the comfort provided by his daily routine deserts him once he sees a road covered as far as the eye can see with corpses. He tries to knot his tie impeccably as per routine but this time his nerves fail him—–the silent breakdown he suffers as the managerly veneer of calm control cracks is one of the highlights of a stupdenous tour-de-force by Don Cheadle.
There have been few recent movies that have moved me so much at “Hotel Rwanda”.
In conclusion, it is people like Rusesabagina who make us believe in humanity at a time when there is such a dearth of it all around the world. His story deserves to be heard and seen.
Some supplementary thoughts: Guess which European county was financing and arming the Hutu army that was orchestrating the genocide ? It’s the darling country of all liberals—-France !!!! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
For all those limousine liberals who call the Gujrat riots as “genocide” please see “Hotel Rwanda” to see what “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” actually is. It’s not just a matter of numbers.(1 million vs thousands)……in Rwanda the army goes about killing people, the radio exhorts Hutus to kill cockroaches ie the Tutsis——–this is what genocide is—a pogrom that is actively carried out using government machinery and as a part of “state policy”.
Again what happened in Gujrat was barbarity but it was NOT genocide. This is not just a point of academic debate and word semantics…..once you use the word “genocide” in front of a Western audience, it is with the Jewish holocaust, Rwanda and Cambodia that people equate Gujrat with—-a very unfair comparison and a poor reflection on India as a country.
Accepted it’s good sensationalism for people like Rakesh Sharma and the Sabrang people to use the word “genocide” ad infinitum but it’s simply not the truth.