Hotel Rwanda

Earlier this week I was listening to “Late Night Live” on Radio National on which Phillip Adams spoke with Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, the UN official on which one of the characters, the one played by Nick Nole in “Hotel Rwanda” was based. He was very dismissive of the film arguing its only benefit was in keeping the story of the massacre alive. In particular, he was dismissive of the central role played in the film of the hotel manager, saying he only had a vague memory of the character of Paul, played by Don Cheadle. I’ve been thinking about this ever since: to what extent has there been revisionism (perhaps both by Dallaire and the film-maker)? And with what purpose?

In many ways such arguments are, perhaps, unnecessarily intellectual in light of the film’s subject matter: the death of a million people in an act of genocide that was allowed to occur. The film makes the point strongly the Americans and Europeans could have done more earlier to save lives. And the reason they didn’t? The Nick Nolte character explains to Paul, the hotel manager it’s because they’re African, they’re dirt, they’re “not even niggers”. The film also explains “the French” (whatever that means) funded the uprising and demonstrates how easily even the hotel resort company in Belgium can wield power and save lives… if they want to.

I’ve seen this film twice now and it’s one which continues to resonate with me for lots of reasons. One of which is that, like most people in Australia, I was only vaguely aware of some of the details surrounding the Rwandan genocide. I didn’t understand the impact colonialism had on causing long-term problems in the country. I didn’t realise the slaughter was as great as it was. I’m still thinking about it and wondering what Rwanda is like now. For how long will the aftermath of the genocide be with the people?

This is a great film. Very watchable and ultimately achieving a lot… even if some reviews have wanted, in an abysmally middle class PC kind of way, to say “it’s just so Hollywood”.

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