Friday, March 13, 2009

World Movie Series - 3 - Hotel Rwanda


Genocides.

They happen because of the hatred people have towards each other. When abhorrence develops in the minds of a group of people against their opponent caste, the results are dreadful. We read in newspapers frequently about one caste attacking the people of other caste in our villages (and cities too). Look at what’s happening in Sri Lanka. It is happening in Palestine, Afghanistan, Kashmir... Everywhere. Just imagine we are a part of this genocide. Around us, people are getting killed, and we don’t know when our turn will be. Lunatics are waiting outside to kill us at any time. What will our reaction be, in such a dreadful situation?

Hotel Rwanda is one such tale against genocides.

Paul Rusesabagina is the manager of a hotel in Kigali, Rwanda - Hotel Mille Collines. There are two major castes in Rwanda – The Hutu and the Tutsi. The Hutus are in power in 1994, and their president is Juvénal Habyarimana. We see Paul purchasing groceries for the hotel, in the initial scenes. He comes to the Hotel along with his assistant Dube. While Paul is working busy in the Hotel, Dube and others hear radio news which tells the President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane has been shot and the president has died in the crash.

The radio proclaims that the Tutsi caste is responsible for the crash as the president was a Hutu. The radio says the Tutsi’s are planning for an attack on the Hutus for a long time and now they have sparked the dynamite by assassinating the president. Tension mounts up in Kigali, and military is summoned to reinforce peace. The U.N also sends Colonel Oliver (Nick Nolte) with an army to Kigali. The colonel talks to Paul and says things are under control, and the government is trying to reinforce peace all over the country.

There is an armed force named Interahamwe which absolutely hates the Tutsi caste. They proclaim in the radio that the Tutsis are cockroaches and they need to be killed to keep the country clean. Paul’s friend tells him the military is very minimal, and it won’t be able to control the crisis, if it happens. He also tells Paul to flee from the country, as his wife is a Tutsi. Paul assures his friend that the military will be able to control the crisis and even the U.N is here. All the world media is looking at the situation, and hence nothing would happen.

One man who is the neighbor of Paul comes to him and tells that the Interahamwe has decided to launch a brutal attack on the Tutsis. The code world will be ‘Cut the tall trees’. If this word is issued in the radio, it means the massacre will start. Paul worriedly comes in to his house and searches his wife and children, and they all are gathered in a room, with many other neighbors. The neighbors are Tutsis and they have come for refuge to Paul, since he is the ONLY Hutu who can be trusted. There is no power, too.

Next day, Paul goes to the hotel, and while traveling in the car, he switches on the radio, and suddenly hears the proclamation of ‘Cut the tall trees’ getting repeated again and again. Terrified, he reaches the hotel. The crisis has already begun. He runs to his home, and there is military which finds out he is sheltering Tutsis and the military says all the Tutsis are to be killed. Paul offers money to the military general, and saves those Tutsis and brings them all to his hotel.

In the Hotel, there are a lot of foreign people staying, and rooms are being allocated to all the refugees. Everywhere, it’s havoc outside, and Tutsis are killed in bunches. A woman from Red Cross brings in many Tutsi children and asks Paul to keep them safe. Paul hurriedly enquires to her about his sister-in-law, her husband and her two children who live near the school where the children are rescued, and he asks her to bring them here. She tells she‘ll try and goes off. Later he learns that the house is severely damaged and the parents are missing. The children are with an old lady living near their house.

Meanwhile, we see an army coming to the hotel to kill all the Tutsis. Paul calls the Hotel’s owners and they (Jean Reno) talk to the high authorities and as a result, the army withdraws. News reaches Paul that the while people are going to be rescued from the hotel by their countries and the black people are left as castaways. All the white people slowly move towards the buses waiting for them, and some of them (The news channel camera man Joaquin Phoenix) react about their spinelessness to help the blacks. The buses start, and in a beautiful shot, the poor black people who’ve left behind, stranded in the hotel, are shown. Rain pours down, and Paul takes everyone inside.

General Oliver tells Paul that he has received orders that some black people have got visas and they will be taken to the neighboring countries. In the list he reads out, Paul’s name is at the last. His wife and children are relieved that they are safe. When the truck comes to carry the blacks, after placing his family inside the truck, Paul whispers to a friend to take care of his family, and suddenly jumps out. He says he can’t leave the refugees as such, and goes to them. His wife cries, and the truck moves.

Back in the hotel, Paul learns from the radio that it’s an ambush to bring the people outside the hotel. Hutu fanatics attack the truck, and General Oliver somehow manages to bring the truck back to the hotel.

Now, all the routes are shut. Everywhere, it appears bleak, and Paul doesn’t know what to do. A policeman tells him that soon, the higher officials in the military will be thrown out, and then, everyone in the hotel will be killed. Paul goes to meet his friend to get groceries for the hotel, and after collecting them, the friend tells Paul to help to kill the cockroaches present inside, and if he helps, then he will be spared along with a few of the Tutsis. He asks Paul to take the road by the river, as it is the only clean road.

While traveling on the river road, the car bumps as if it’s been moving on rocks. Paul stops the vehicle and when he comes out, he staggers on something. When he looks at the road, he realizes that the entire road is filled with bodies! Thousands of bodies are lying on the road, making it a bloody sight. Paul cannot withstand the sight of his fellow countrymen lying as dead bodies, and he rushes to the hotel. He cries in a bathroom, and he tells his wife that if something happens to him, she has to go the terrace along with the children and jump down, as suicide is better than being tortured and killed.

He goes to a general in the Hutu army, who initially was Paul’s friend. Paul threatens the general that USA is carefully assessing the situation and when it attacks the Hutu army for the massacre, the general must need someone to vouch that the general was helping the Tutsi refugees. Paul says he will vouch for the general. Reluctantly, the general agrees to help Paul and with his help, all the refugees are brought to the neighboring city, and from there, to Tanzania.

In Tanzania, Paul is able to find the children of his sister-in-law. That was the only happiness to his family, after the attacks.

The movie ends with a beautiful song sung by children, when Paul and his wife take some more children to be accommodated in the bus to Tanzania.

Hotel Rwanda is a thumping tale. It’s a true story which portrays the massacre of millions of Tutsis by the Hutu fanatics. It happened in 1994, and it is estimated that almost 500,000 people were killed in the genocide. To read more about the Rwandan Genocide, take a look at this link.

If we think about it, genocides happen all around the world. Paul asks Dube in this film about why are genocides happening, and Dube gives a beautiful one word answer. It’s all due to hatred, he says. Hatred towards fellow people. If this hatred spreads among a community, then genocides happen. But, as seen in a touching manner in the movie, the people getting killed are in no way associated with the attacks at all. Only the innocent people, women and children die in these genocides.

The movie presents a soulful solution to stop genocides. It’s Love. Love towards a fellow human. Paul risks his life in saving more than 1000 refugees, who belong to his opposite caste. What was the need? He could have easily joined forces with his caste members, to kill the refugees. But instead, Paul chooses to save them. At the end, all the people thank Paul for saving their lives, and Paul smiles seeing the smile on their faces. Love must be the only solution in this world, the only solution which can create miracles.

Hotel Rwanda was released in 2005. Its an English film starring Don Cheadle as Paul, directed by Terry George. It was nominated for three Oscars (Best Actor, best supporting actor and Best Original Screenplay). The real Paul Rusesabagina and his wife accompanied the director while he went to Rwanda, and at that time, many people have welcomed him at the airport. This shows the power of Love, isn’t it?

See Hotel Rwanda, and get a feel of a single person’s iron will to save thousand people who have come to seek refuge under him. Hotel Rwanda is a classic, spreading the message of love against genocides.

See the trailer here.

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