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.


Anonymous said...


It is always good to see anyone raising the awareness of what happened in Rwanda, however just a few comments.

A national identity did not always protect many Rwandans from slaughter. Many were killed despite having an identity card that said Hutu....just because someone thought they looked Tutsi.
In addition, many moderate Hutus were killed as well....just for, in essence, "consorting with the enemy".

A more accurate and less "hollywood" representation is the movie Sometimes in April. It was recommended to me by my many Rwandese friends in Canada.


Deniss Rutšeikov said...

Hey Diann!

Thank you for your comment. I am aware indeed that many people were killed there because they cooperated with "enemy", or because they looked differently, or because someone just wanted to steal their houses, or... Actually, this movie shows that as well, therefore I would not call it inaccurate.

The worst thing of all in this incident is precisely that - people can find any minor justification for doing massacres. You just need to create a small black-and-white bubble for them to make things very simple - this is good and that is bad. People like simplifications. Religion, politicians, marketing-people are well using this trait of humanity. Sadly, is is very often used for very bad purposes.

And thank you for your movie suggestion. I will try to find this film.

Carry said...

I will try and find both movies. Thank you, guys!

Grèg said...

I will have to watch this movie. Rwanda was a former Belgian colony and everybody here has heard about the genocide in this region. There are some Belgians from Rwandese origins who decided to go to Belgian courts to get justice. I think they've been some processes that followed but I don't remember welll. We're too much focused on our own language-relates issues now...

Grèg said...

By the way, I've created a new blog this week and decided to stop the other. The new link is : I try to post as much in English as in French :)

Petronella said...

Thanks for writing this.