Monday, February 07, 2005

A Motion Picture Reflection

On Saturday (02.05), I went to see Hotel Rwanda. It is now one of my favorites of 2004 (even though I saw it in 2005, it came out in December). This motion picture really put a face on war and really showed me how War is Hell.

In one of my religion classes last semester, we talked about how War is Hell and one really cannot truly know what it is like by simply talking about it. One must experience it, either through firsthand account or by someone telling you about war or showing you. Hotel Rwanda does this. It takes its audience to another level.

Here is the synopsis of the film:
The Rwandan conflict of the 1990s marked one of the bloodiest chapters in recent African history. The genocide was made all the more tragic by the fact that most of the world chose to ignore the conflict and the plight of the Rwandan people. While occasional reports about "tribal warfare" in Rwanda were carried by international news agencies, the horror of the conflict, instead of causing international outrage, seemed to be written off as another "third world incident" and not worthy of attention.

Over the course of 100 days, almost one million people were killed in Rwanda. The streets of the capital city of Kigali ran red with rivers of blood, but no one came to help. There was no international intervention in Rwanda, no expeditionary forces, no coalition of the willing. There was no international aid for Rwanda. Rwanda's Hutu extremists slaughtered their Tutsi neighbors and any moderate Hutus who stood in their way, and the world left them to it.

"Ten years on, politicians from around the world have made the pilgrimage to Rwanda to ask for forgiveness from the survivors, and once more the same politicians promise `never again,'" says director Terry George. "But it's happening yet again in Sudan, or the Congo, or some Godforsaken place where life is worth less than dirt. Places where men and women like Paul and Tatiana shame us all by their decency and bravery."

Wars have always provided fertile ground for the emergence of heroes and supreme acts of heroism by ordinary people. Rwanda was no exception. Amidst the horrendous violence and chaos that swept the country, one of the many heroes to emerge was Paul Rusesabagina, an ordinary man who, out of love and compassion, managed to save the lives of 1268 people.

Terry George had long been interested in doing a film set in Africa, but it was Paul Rusesabagina's story that finally brought him to the continent. "When my co-writer Keir Peirson introduced me to the story, I immediately knew I wanted to do it," says George. "I flew to Belgium and met Paul and learned of his life: how he became a hotelier, how he rose through the ranks of employees in the various Sabena hotels he worked in, and how he ended up at the Hotel Mille Collines in Kigali."

It was the remarkable human element of the story that struck a chord with Hotel Rwanda producer Alex Ho. "This story is very close to my heart, and it's the kind of story I really appreciate," he says. "It's about a normal man who, when prompted by his wife, is able to use his position to help others. In the course of doing that, he sets out on a journey that makes him a better man."

Don Cheadle was nominated for his performance as Paul, the House Manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines, for an Academy Award. I know why. He plays a wonderfully, truly heart-touching character. I hope Mr. Cheadle is honored for his powerful performance.

This film puts its audience through a roller coaster of emotion: one minute we are heavily crying and another we are smiling at the touching scenes of hope and laughter. For a better insight to the world and a connection to understanding war, I recommend Hotel Rwanda. Wonderfully great films do not only take an audience to a different place and time, having them leave their own lives, forgetting for some time their current woes, they inspire. Great films inspire change and almost demand it. Can we all just sit around while tragedy happens day after day around the world and just seem comatose in a world full of tragedy, hatred and war? We all must do something. It can be little or grand, but it must be something.
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(For more information on Hotel Rwanda, visit: http://www.mgm.com/ua/hotelrwanda/)