Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Hotel Rwanda" - for those who are not ignorant

Lately, this blog is turning into movies' review diary. In general, I watch movies rather rarely. And if I watch some, I usually pick something worth doing that in order not to waste my time.

I like history. I admire brave people. There is one movie which speaks about both of it. "Hotel Rwanda" it is.

People are generally ignorant if they don't feel that something happening does not impact them in any way. That's how many events around us are perceived. Everyone is aware of the conflict in Iraq, because a world superpower USA and oil are involved there. Everyone is aware of the conflict in Georgia, because a wannabe superpower Russia and oil are involved there. And it seems like people (at least in what is considered to be West) are concerned about these events. They protest, they create different groups in the Facebook "Supporting X against Y" etc, which is good to some extent, because it shows their civic attitude.

But how many people protest or create groups in the Facebook against atrocities happening currently in Sudan, for example?

In 1994 a Central-African country Rwanda did not have major world superpower involved there. Neither did it have oil. According to estimations, more than 800.000 people were slaughtered during three months of 1994 during what is now referred as genocide. This seemed like another bad news from some failed state in Africa back then.

I remember working as a summer reporter in the biggest Estonian daily "Postimees" in 2004. I was then involved in foreign news department. Once my task was to write about 10th anniversary of genocide is Rwanda. I comprehensively researched the topic, wrote quite a good article which was supposed to become a main story in foreign news the next day. But few hours before giving materials to final editing the main editor approached me, apologized and said that I need to cut the story till just 4 paragraphs, because the main story will cover the visit of Estonian prime-minister to neighbouring Latvia. It stroke my mind then - I lost my chance to really show people what happened there because of their own ignorance...

And what happened is an extreme example of what can be result of hysterical nationalism and manipulation of people with the help of mass media. By 1994 there were two main ethical groups in Rwanda - Tutsi and Hutu, while the difference between these two was created by outsiders, former Belgian colonists, who divided people to two group according to their looks (length of nose) and gave different passports (along with different priviliges, while Tutsi got more of them in 20th century). So, basically, it was the same people speaking the same language who were divided into two groups.

Eextremely-minded nationalistic Hutus grabbed the military power in the country and started to strengthen anti-Tutsi sentiments in the beginning of 1990s . Mass media was used heavily for that. A special militia (killing force) was created and being trained. After some incident mass-killings started. Everyone who had a temple "Tutsi" in their passports would not escape the death, incuding small children. It was a true ethical cleansing. Around 70% of Tutsi living in Rwanda in that time were killed during these three months.

The movie "Hotel Rwanda" tells a story of one hotel manager, Hutu himself, who was married to Tutsi woman. Despite threat to himself and his family, he saved a few thousand Tutsis who could cover themselves in his hotel. I recalled "Schindler's List" when I watched this movie.

The movie is excellent. The actors' play is excellent. The story is amazing, yet scary. Because it was a reality.

It is obligatory watching for everyone interested in history and everyone not willing to be ignorant.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Singing Revolution (Laulev revolutsioon) in Estonia - a thing to be proud about

I am critical about some things in Estonia as my country (as any critically-minded person is about his or her society). And normally I don't like to boost with the words like "Estonia is the best" etc. But, among others, there is one thing which makes me proud about my home-land and which is worth to learn from. It is so-called Singing Revolution in the end of 1980s.

These thoughts came again to my mind while I was watching the movie with this name in July. Me and my colleague Kristi showed this movie to foreign volunteers who came for their service to Estonia (it was a part of their cultural preparation during the training me and Kristi did for them). I watched this movie for the first time then.

Singing Revolution is the term characterizing the chain of events which eventually led to national re-awakening of Estonians and break-up from the USSR in 1991. But the way people expressed their wish for independence, their desire to build their own country was not military. People did not use guns or any kind of violence. They were singing. About Estonia, about the nature, about their families, about the weather, about the sea, about their country. In the peak moments of the time of Singing Revolution there were more than one hundred thousand people singing together. This brought unity and focus to Estonians (as well as to Latvians and Lithuanians, where similar events were happening simultaneously) who managed to proclaim their independence from Soviet Union.

The good things about this movie is that it is done by Americans, not Estonians. Americans managed to stick to the facts and videos available from this time, while staying objective. And the final result is excellent - everyone feeling part of this country would not probably be left cold after watching this movie. It is emotionally very intensive movie, which shows how something very desirable for more than 1 million people has been happening.

Having been in Bosnia I know what can it lead to when people take guns, start to kill, destroy, rape and wound. Unfortunately, that is precisely what is still happening in many parts of the world. Why cannot all revolutions be singing?

"Singing Revolution / Laulev revolutsioon" is obligatory watching for all Estonians, all people interested in the history of Estonia, all people interested in the history of 21st century and in international relations.
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