Celebrating Great Films

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda#59 at time of writing.

This film has all the impact of Schindler's List, yet without the trademark Spielberg sentimentality.

The Rwandan genocide is told through the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, a heroic hotel manager who risked everything to prevent Tutsi refugees from being wiped out by the Hutu militia.

This film left me ashamed. Ashamed because there was so much I didn't know (and should have known) about such a recent and horrific conflict. Ashamed that I and my government ignored this genocide at the time and let it happen. Ashamed by the human instinct to discriminate and persecute. And a little ashamed that I actually enjoyed watching the film! The fact that this works so well as a thriller makes the truth - when it finally hits you - land much harder.

One throwaway scene haunted my memory for a long time afterwards. Before the militia mobilise, two girls chatting in café are asked by a journalist if they are Hutu or Tutsi. One is Hutu, one is Tutsi, and it seems to bother them not one bit. I don't think we ever see the girls again, but the scene echoed in my mind as an almost metaphorical illustration of how pointless the whole conflict was and how tragically so many friendships and families were divided.

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