Feb 21, 2005
The new movie Hotel Rwanda is set in the African country that went through horrifying episodes of ethnic cleansing a few years back. While the movie doesn't directly take up everything that happened, the horrors of the period can be seen through the lives of the people in the movie. Its story is based on a real incident that took place during the massacres there in the early 1990s.
A Rwanda hotel manager saved the lives of over a thousand people while terror reigned all over his country. The manager Paul did not set out to be a hero in doing his job for a luxury hotel owned by the Belgian airlines.
But he comes home one night to find his family hiding in the dark. The power is out and the murders have begun. There begins his unintentional heroism, taking in refugee after refugee fleeing the terror.
His son has witnessed some horror we can only guess and is so traumatized that he does not speak. Such a personal look at how this civil war touches individuals can make the situation far more clear than newspaper headlines. The viewer feels what is happening to this family, this father, to their country.
Later in the movie, when Paul goes out in the hotel van to try to get food for all the refugees he is hiding, the van goes over bumps. It is not the road that is bumpy – it is dead bodies of his slaughtered countrymen, Tutsis.
There are two main ethnic groups in Rwanda, the Hutus (Paul's group) and the Tutsis (his wife's group). The two groups talk the same language and often intermarry. But this war pits one group against the other.
The movie goer can feel Paul's sense of betrayal as he realizes that no one is coming to help Rwanda and the Rwandans – not the UN, and certainly not the Belgians, who fomented ethnic violence to solidify their control over the country. A character playing a UN colonel makes it clear that Europeans don't give a damn about the miseries of Africans. The Rwandans can only count on themselves.
When the water is cut off in the city, the people hiding in the hotel are forced to use the water from the swimming pool. The pool is like their plight: the more empty the pool, the more desperate the situation.
This must-see movie gives you a picture of the nightmare the Rwandans endured. A similar atrocity seems underway in other nearby countries.
We can learn from a movie like this that the capitalist system only has these kinds of nightmares to offer the poorer people of the entire world. Humanity requires something different if it is to survive.