Wednesday, 2 March 2005

“After they see this, people are gonna say ‘My God that’s terrible,’ and then go on eating their dinners.”

Chilling words uttered by a news cameraman to Paul Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda, on the footage he had shot of the genocide. Footage that Paul hoped would spur the world into doing something against the atrocities that were just beginning.

In three months, one million people would be brutally murdered in an event fuelled by ethnic hatred. True enough, the world turned a blind eye to the genocide that claimed Rwandan lives at nearly three times the rate it claimed Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

Hotel Rwanda is not just a brilliant action movie or one that celebrates Paul’s bravery that resulted in saving 1,268 lives. It is not just a true story that gives Paul the recognition he deserved.

It is a movie that makes you realise just how many innocent people gets killed, because the rest of the world does nothing.

The events surrounding Hotel Rwanda is not fiction. The streets of Kigali did run red with blood. Paul Rusesabagina did shelter people in the Hotel des Mille Collines for 11 weeks in the midst of it all. And at a time when Rwanda needed help the most, there was indeed no international intervention, expeditionary force or international aid.

Rwanda was swept under the carpet, the genocide written off as “tribal warfare” and deemed unworthy of attention. And in the movie, we step into the shoes of these victims, terrified and utterly deserted by the rest of the world. We feel their desperation and despair as they realise people will not do something just because an atrocity like the one they are experiencing makes the news.

As BBC journalist Steve Bradshaw says about us, “It is hard not to be carried away with the appalling cultural totalitarianism that is the precondition of genocide. We’re not trained to say ‘No’ when the state, our teachers, priests, police, neighbours and friends all say ‘Yes!’”

But Hotel Rwanda challenges that. Hotel Rwanda challenges you to stand up against such atrocities. Hotel Rwanda challenges you not to simply dismiss something as “terrible” and then go on eating your dinner.

“Ten years on, politicians from around the world have made the pilgrimage to Rwanda to ask for forgiveness from the survivors, and the same politicians promised ‘never again,'" says director Terry George. “But it's happening yet again in Sudan [and] the Congo…places where life is [viewed to be] worth less than dirt. Places where men and women like Paul and his wife Tatsiana shame us all by their decency and bravery."

Hotel Rwanda is worth a watch for the brilliant script that portrays the Rwandan genocide the world tried to ignore, but watching Hotel Rwanda will leave you wanting to do more, even when the rest of the world doesn’t.

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