Tuesday, February 08, 2005
"Hotel Rwanda", The Movie
----Alan Paton (1903-1988)
Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina
There are movies that leave you feeling good, others that make you feel sad and contemplative. "Hotel Rwanda" caused numbness. JHL and I left the theater feeling overwhelmed and it took a few minutes for us to begin talking about the film.
Briefly, the movie depicted what happened in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda during the massacre of Tutsis by Hutus. In other parts of Rwanda the Tutsis killed Hutus. Altogether, the death toll exceeded more than one million.
"Hotel Rwanda" is based on a real-life character, Paul Rusesabagina who found himself running the upscale Hotel Mille Collines, owned by the Belgian conglomerate Sabena, when the European management staff left at the outbreak of violence. A fixer with connections, Paul was initially concerned with protecting his Tutsi wife and their children. But he soon found himself providing shelter to hundreds of Tutsis as well as Hutus. To his credit he managed to save most of the men, women and children by bribing, cajoling the army general in charge of the Hutu forces (it was para-military gangs that committed most of the atrocities) and with help from a sympathetic UN official.
The director, Terry George, deliberately avoided detailed shots of the slaughtered. Close up views of people hacked to death with machetes would have been too gruesome. They were not necessary for the message to reach the audience.
Don Cheadle very ably portrayed the smooth-talking, unflappable Paul Rusesabagina whose conscience would not let him escape when an opportunity came up. The innate decency of the man came through under the most horrific cirecumstances.
Nick Nolte was his usual gruff self as Colonel Oliver, a Canadian in charge of the UN Peacekeeping Forces.
Joaquin Phoneix left an imprerssion in a cameo role as a war photographer, as did the French actor Jean Reno as the director of Sabena. Cara Seymour stood out in her role as a member of UN's humanitarian aid staff.
There was a scene in which Nick Nolte informed Rusesabagina of the super powers' decision not to intervene. “You’re not even a nigger”.“You’re an African.”
There is some truth to that. It is a fact that in 1994 the Clinton administration decided not to get involved in Rwanda. The European Union and the Bush administration took a "hands off" position during the ethnic cleansing that began in Darfur (Sudan) in 2003. And so it goes.
Back to "Million Dollar Baby"
In my post (January 22nd) I wrote that:"Not all viewers would like the decision made by Maggie and Frankie at the end. Eastwood did it right. Anything else would have trivialized it."
Well, I read in Maureen Dowd's column in The NY Times on January 6th that it didn't take long for Rush Limbaugh (yes, the Rush Limbaugh who faced criminal charges for illegally buying and using oxy-contin), Michael Medved and others to claim that Eastwood's film sends a "positive message about euthanasia". Duh !