Hotel Rwanda

I’m usually not one to write movie reviews, even though I usually have an opinion on just about every movie I see. However, after receiving the ability to attend the advance screening of Hotel Rwanda this previous Wednesday I felt something had to be said about it. The true tragedy of this movie is that its an extremely limited release and therefore will probably only be seen by those who are truly interested. I guess in a lot of ways its pretty consistent with America’s media portrayal of genocide and African policy.

Think what you may about the Rwanda situation, but it’s hard to deny that genocide is happening in the world right now; Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are considered genocides by many in the world, and even Colin Powell held a press conference declaring the situation in Sudan’s Darfur region a genocide… and then our military did nothing. Meanwhile we continue to occupy two nations, hold thousands of potential “terrorists” prisoner, and our media and government officials make it sound like we’re making the world such an amazing place.

Hotel Rwanda says it best in the scene where UN General Oliver (a Canadian) has to break the news to Paul (Rwandan hotel manager) that the United States and other European Nations have decided not to intervene to stop the mass killings, but rather are ordering all of the white people to leave the country immediately. Its almost impossible for Paul to understand how countries like the United States could see the sickness and horror going on in Rwanda and choose to do nothing. “You’re dirt. You’re below dirt. You’re not even a n*****… you’re an African” is how General Oliver has to explain what the west thinks of Africa.

Later in the movie, a group of nuns and orphans flee to the hotel seeking refuge from the killing. All of the Europeans (Italians I believe) are told to get out of the country immediately, while the African nuns and orphans are forced to fend for themselves in the midst of the mass murders. Eventually the United Nations commits an intervention force of 300 peacekeepers to attempt to stop the ethnic conflict, although little can be done with so few troops. The United States, of course, commits nothing.

In light of all the horror going on in the country, many emerge as true heroes, although sadly, American opinion often makes these people unimportant. General Oliver shows that the United Nations isn’t the devil our current administration and many of our leaders make them out to be. The United Nations can only be as effective as its member states, and Rwanda proves that even the most powerful “peace-promoting” countries in the world really only care about peace when it directly benefits their interests. The Red Cross and its workers are perhaps one of the world’s greatest organizations; helping rescue orphans and run refugee camps to help innocent, displaced Tutsis is only the beginning of what they have the ability to do. And of course, Paul, the hotel manager, who works to make sure he can save as many lives as possible. Along the few powerful Belgians willing to help him, Paul is able to save the lives of thousands. Don’t get me wrong however, the true heroes are few and far between, and its fairly safe to say President Clinton and powerful Americans were not among them.

Hotel Rwanda isn’t necessarily a bloodbath and attempt to make everyone in the theatre sick from sight of blood and mass murder like many Holocaust movies have done. Rather it’s a portrayal of the genocide that makes that audience sick at the thought of how the west can allow such atrocities to happen. It’s the story of a few brave Africans and Europeans who were willing to go against the international opinion and work to save lives and ensure stability in Rwanda.

Everyone who has an opinion on foreign policy and military intervention should see Hotel Rwanda. Unlike other movies (Black Hawk Down) which portray America as the world’s savior and all of Africa as the enemy, this movie shows America’s true colors when it comes to intervening in situations that don’t directly serve our political interests. Tragically, the only location in Ohio currently playing this movie is the Cedar Lee. Nevertheless, come by car or plane or train up to Cleveland Heights to see what is possibly the best movie of the year.