Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Milles Collines

I finally saw Hotel Rwanda last night and I have to say that it makes me just as enraged as Philip Gourevtich’s book did. The movie did an amazing job of showing how the international response affected all the Rwandan Tutsis and Hutu moderates through the experience of the 1,200 people hiding at the Milles Collines Hotel. Hearing about how the UN and the big countries of the West turned their back on this genocide is one thing, but seeing how it impacted real people who were dangerously close to death really drives home how much we, the international community, failed.

The critics were right when they praised Don Cheadle’s performance as Paul Rusesabagina. He was emotional, but knew where to draw the line and didn’t overact. The rest of the cast was just as good. In this movie though, the performances are important in the messages they are able to send. For example, in a simple scene where Nick Nolte as Colonel Oliver (a fictional character based on Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire) comments about the radios that were giving killing instructions, he makes a big point; if we had stopped the radio transmissions, we might have slowed the killings. Jean Reno, as the businessman in charge of the hotel chain, temporarily saves the residents of the hotel with one phone call to the French Prime Minister’s office. Both of these scenes show how much more could have been done with such little effort.

The most powerful scene of the movie though was when the UN was evacuating the international residents from the hotel. Joaquin Phoenix, a cameraman / journalist says, “I feel so ashamed,” as he boards the bus to leave, knowing that all of the Rwandans will have to stay behind without protection. At that moment, his shame becomes all of our shame.

The saddest feeling from the movie though comes from knowing that nothing has changed in the international community. It is depressing that we let this happen, but it is even more depressing to know that we have let a similar genocide continue in Darfur using the same bunk arguments we used during Rwanda. I have had debates with people recently who probably think of themselves as realists. They look back on Rwanda and believe that we didn’t go in because we should not have gone in. And hearing that just crushes me. To know that there are people who are informed about what happened, but can still say there was nothing we should have / could have done is what makes me weep after seeing that movie.