[chinese blood, irish heart] - DEFUNCT: 'Remember'- Hotel Rwanda

Sunday, March 13, 2005

'Remember'- Hotel Rwanda

First of all, I wholeheartedly recommend this movie to anyone. It is one of the best dramas I have seen in a long time, coupled by superb performances by Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo and Nick Nolte. The Rwandan genocide in 1994 is still fresh in people's minds and serves as one of the more darker spots of the 20th Century compared to horrific events such as the Nazi Holocaust. I did feel iffy about Hollywood being at the helm as they are infamous for taking reality out of such stories and blowing it all out of proportion, need I remind you of Black Hawk Down? I was also suprised at the film's 12's certificate (or PG-13 in America), the producers probably wanted to find a balance between the horrific violence and educating young people about the genocide. The film dosen't really reflect nor explain why the events happen as they did, the genocide more or less acted as a background, while the story revolved around Paul and his family.

Cheadle plays the role of Paul Rusesabagina, a true life person whom I have a new profound respect for. I did feel iffy at first about Cheadle's accent (have you heard his British accent in Ocean's 11-12?) but he seemed to pull it off great. His acting is top notch and this is undoubtedly his breakthrough role. Cheadle is far from a household name, so casting him as the lead was quite refreshing. I can't really think of any other black Hollywood actor that would be fit for it. Nick Nolte was great too, I hadn't seem him in anything since that infamous drink driving portrait! If his role as the UN Colonel Oliver was just a little longer I think he'd be up for Best Supporting Actor in whatever award.

The Western powers were portrayed poorly in the film and deservedly so. As Colonel Oliver puts it clearly to Paul: "you're not even a nigger, you're African," pretty much sums up the West's view on the Rwandan situation. However the Canadians and French were portrayed a little better led by Nick Nolte and Jean Reno respectively. Nevertheless, it does make us ask why 'we' didn't help out in Rwanda, why Bill Clinton didn't do anything like he did in Mogadishu. As a reporter once asked in a White House spokesperson: "How many genocides does it take for it to be a genocide?" Needless to say their PR machine was at full capacity.

(Above is the real life couple Paul & Tatiana Rusesabagina)

Oddly, the UN had never characterised the Rwandan genocide as actual 'genocide.' So therefore it did not authorise involvement but instead regulated itself to, as Colonel Oliver puts it as "we're peacekeepers, not peacemakers." But perhaps now the Western powers are starting to learn from this lesson, as highlighted by increased peacekeeping missions in Africa, not to mention our fighting men & women currently in Liberia!

I admit I hadn't shown much interest in Rwanda since I've seen this film (and I suppose for lots of others too) which leads me to ask 'does it have to take a Hollywood blockbuster for us to start showing interest?' Not to mention that it's already 10 years too late? I'm sure there are similar horrific events happening now in the world as you read this and probably not reported in the mainstream news. But even if it did, I think a large majority of us would be passively sympathetic as we in the Western world are too preoccupied by mundane activities and maintaining social lives to really involve ourselves into intervening. As one character said: "we will watch it on TV, say that it is terrible, and go right on eating our dinner." Sadly true.