Wednesday, May 04, 2005

hotel rwanda

i watched this movie on dvd last night.

this is a powerful, important film. if you're not aware, it's based on the true story of paul rusesabagina, a hotel manager in rwanda whose brave, selfless actions during the rwandan genocide of 1994 saved more than a thousand lives.

some seriously messed-up shit happens in this movie, made all the more disturbing by the fact that it all really happened. just when you think the worst is over and help will be there soon, something even worse happens, and this cycle repeats over and over again.

nearly a million people died in the conflict, and the united nations did nothing about it. sure, they had peacekeeper troops on the ground, but those troops were powerful, not allowed to even fire their weapons. then they scaled back their troops and evacuated all the foreigners, essentially abandoning the rwandans in their time of need.

one thing really drove home the sheer senselessness of it all: the fact that there isn't much difference at all between the hutu and tutsi, the two "peoples" in the conflict. in one early scene, a foreign journalist asks exactly what the difference is: the answer he's given is that the belgians (who took control of rwanda for a time after wwii) essentially invented the different clans. they picked the africans who were taller, lighter skinned, and had narrower noses, and decided "you are tutsi." the tutsi minority then helped the belgians run the country, angering the majority hutu. when you hear about genocide in places like bosnia or the darfur region of the sudan (or even nazi germany), you at least know that these are ethnically different tribes, with different religious beliefs. it's senseless and horrifying, but at least makes sense on that one level.