What I want you to know. Which is everything.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda, if you don't already know, is about Paul, played by Don Cheatle, a hotel manager at very upscale hotel in Rwanda. He is respected in the community, respected and loved by his employees, and has friends on both sides of a very complex, and difficult problem in his country. Paul is a member of the Hutu tribe, while his wife, and his relatives and most of his workers are Tutsi. The Hutus and the Tutsis are at odds because...well, it's unclear why they are fighting. I'm kind of left to figure that it's one of these old standing rivalries that go back along way. As best as I could gather from the movie the deliniation between Tutsi and Hutu was made by the Belgium government during their occupation there. If I understand correctly the Belgium government decided that those Rwandans who appeared more white (lighter skin, thinner nose) were called Tutsi and given more privileges, such as places in government and good jobs. Basically, this created an upper class and lower class that could be strictly devided along racial lines. Although, as Joaquin Phoenix's character noted, they really didn't look that different.

The whole movie I was fighting back tears. It was really that kind of movie. The most touching and heartbreaking part, for me, was when all of the orphan children are being taken to the hotel for safety. When they get there they see a bus waiting to take people away and think that this is their passage out. But, the UN officer has to tell them that it is for foreigners only and that the orphans would have to stay at the hotel. The nuns and workers from the orphanage are pulled away from crying children in a scene that I can only call heartbreaking. To see people who want to help so much, and would probably give their lives for those children if given the chance, to be forced away from the children that they had grown close to was almost too much.

There are other scenes like this. The thing I kept thinking during the entire movie was. They didn't have to let it get that bad. Things get that way when one extreme group is ignored. You have the hate group that somehow gains power, probably out of fear mongering, the oppressed, and then those who probably make the most difference: the moderates. Those stuck in the middle who sit back and say, "Thank God it isn't me" are the ones who should be getting involved. Maybe that's what I like about America. Everytime we've seen social change in this country it isn't the people in power who suddenly change their minds. It is those people who have nothing to gain by getting involved but do anyway, because it's the right thing to do. In Hotel Rwanda Paul is one of these people at first. He tells his wife, as long as we have our family, the family is all that matters. You can't blame a guy like that. He had friends on both sides. He was a Hutu and his wife was a Tutsi. He had no ill feelings for either side, but suddenly is thrust into the middle of the fray. All this guy wants is to be a normal family man.

This question begs some of our simplest and yet most important questions: "Why can't we all just get along?" and "Why are people so cruel?" a question asked by Paul's most trusted employee. Here is my answer to both of those questions. People are selfish and prideful. As far as I'm concerned these are the only two sins that matter. I'm guilty of it and so was Adam. So was Paul. If we realize this I think that we can create a new way of thinking. A mindset that allows us to see each other as brothers and sisters and all being connected. And being so connected we have to take care of each other as well as ourselves.

This whole movie is of course about our involvement in overseas conflicts. Paul seems to think that people will help out when they see what's happening in the news. But it was Joaquin again who said, "They'll see it on the evening news, and say, 'How sad.' and then go right back to their dinners." But on the other hand, America and the western world can't be completely engulfed in every act of tyranny and oppression by a government. Perhaps then we should pick and choose who we'll liberate based on their oil reserves. Maybe that's the only way to really do any good. But if we're going to be the world police then we will be the only country that never gets to see peace. It's like that game where you have to hit the plastic gophers on the head with a mallet. At you have all the control and power, but at least the gophers get to rest.


Maegan Carnew said...

That is such a wonderful movie. After I watched it the first time, the credits started playing, and I realized that my jaw had been hanging open the whole time. I was just, speechless. So I put it in and watched it again. I think the hardest part of the movie for me (which you talked about in your post) was the scene where Paul tried to convince them that if they just put it on the news they would send help, then the reporter replied that they would see it, and go on eating their dinners. Ugh. I really think they should make all of the 9th graders watch it whenever they are studying Rwanda. Maybe it would slap some sense into their snotty little heads. I'm really glad you saw the movie, we'll talk about it in person later. See you at rehearsal.

jocelyn said...

Hotel Rwanda may have been one of the most life-changing movies I've ever seen. I'd venture to say THE most...but perhaps that's because it's the best movie I've seen recently and it really strikes a chord with me.

I could hardly think after seeing it. I was fascinated and repelled by the story and the actions and the characters. They were so complex and the story so complicated--it's not really so simple, as you pointed out in your post, for someone to police every country. I have political opinions about this that I will refrain from sharing in this post...

I'm with you, though, on it being a deeply impacting movie. I'm still processing it weeks later.

Jason said...

Haven't seen it! Haven't seen it! Don't give the movie away!

Actually, your description sounds like the mentality that precipitates terrorist attacks. The longer that the US government ignores the fact that terrorist don't hate our freedom but the way we (ab)use our freedom, the worse terrorism will get. Despite the insanity of their methods, the terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001 were the ones without the power, and they took extreme measures to facilitate change, although it probably wasn't the change they had in mind.