Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Hotel Rwanda

Found this review of a film which I suppose will not be released over here until the new year - PolPop

By Joe D

I was fortunate enough to attend a preview screening of the movie, Hotel Rwanda, last night in Los Angeles. Due for release on December 22nd, it tells the true story of a Rwandan - and Hutu - hotel manager in Kigali who saved the lives of 1200 Tutsis during the height of the genocide in 1994. The movie was directed by Terry George, whose previous credits include In The Name Of The Father, which he co-wrote with Jim Sheridan, and Some Mother's Son, which he wrote and directed. Hotel Rwanda stars Don Cheadle as the hotel manager, Nick Nolte as a Canadian UN Colonel, Joaquin Phoenix as an American cameraman, as well as many other lesser-known actors.

This is one of the most powerful and heartrending movies I have ever seen. The chaos and terror sucks you up scene after scene, helped along by Oscar winning performances from Cheadle and Nolte. The racism of the West is excellently portrayed when Belgian paratroopers arrive to escort the white hotel guests to safety, abandoning the Tutsi refugees despite them pleading with them to stay and protect them from marauding, machete-wielding Hutu gangs (I'm not giving it away, btw. This is a scene from the movie's preview).

Cheadle's character, the situation he finds himself in and his response to the carnage taking place around him, echoes that of Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List. I'd always considered Don Cheadle to be a good, solid actor, but with this performance he takes the craft, in my view, to new heights. Everything he does is done subtly, charting the character's journey from social climbing hotel manager to a man walking a fine line between life and death for the lives of others.

Nolte, too, excels in his portrayal of a brave and honorable Canadian U.N. Colonel whose hands are tied by a lack of manpower and rules of engagement that preclude him from taking a firm stand when the massacre begins. The uselessness of the U.N. in such situations - we've seen it all over Africa, the Middle East, Yugoslavia, East Timor - is forcefully revealed, though it won't come as a shock to the subscribers of this list.

The hand wringing that took place in the corridors of power in the West, by Clinton and his acolytes, by the French and Belgian governments, as the genocide took place, left me outraged and disgusted. This hand wringing is excellently and subtly depicted throughout the movie and is, of course, testament to filmmaker and actors' success in sucking me into the story and making me suspend disbelief.

Finally, just as we see genocide unfolding again in the Sudan and new tensions arise in Rwanda, Hotel Rwanda is a graphic and terrible reminder of Africa's tortured history at the hands of European colonialism. Policies of divide and rule, the arbitrary drawing of maps to portion out natural resources and land, lie at the root cause of the mess we see in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent today.

Every member of the ruling class should be taken by the scruff of the neck and dragged along to see this movie.

Then, afterwards, drowned.


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