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Movies and films play an important role in reflecting on real life issues in societies besides entertaining. Such issues include; moral decay, corruption in government, infringement on human rights and poverty. This paper will examine two movies; “the fields by Roland Joffe and Hotel Rwanda by Terry George”. The review focuses on similarities and differences in terms narrative strategies, tone, mood and choice of characters.
Similarities in the two Movies
Both movies are based on atrocities against human rights; they reveal a brunt of burning injustices in real life. The films incorporate an emotional engagement that attracts the attention of the viewer.
Hotel Rwanda recounts the events of the 1994 genocide that resulted in death of close to a million Tutsis by the Hutus. In a similar vein, the killing battle illustrates the 1984 genocide in Cambodia. The two films are a historical testimony of the events that led to massive loss of innocent lives from ethnic clashes.
In the killing fields, three journalists Schanberg, Swain and Pran who witnessed the Cambodian genocide under the regimes of Pol Pot and Rouge recount the stories and events of the genocide.
Paul Rusesabigina who is a Hutu is portrayed in the film Hotel Rwanda as being on a rescue mission to save the lives of the vulnerable Tutsis. Both films are set to create memory of the genocide and reveal the trauma experienced as a result of the massive killings.
The killing field and Hotel Rwanda are all set on an “identity conflict”. The Hutu vs Tutsi identity instilled in the two ethnic groups by their Belgium colonial masters in the 19th century is the centre stage of the conflicts. The film portrays identity illusion in which the black Hutus feel their identity is threatened by the white Tutsis. In a similar way, racism is the cause of genocide in the killing fields.
Both movies reveal the hand of bad leadership as leading to genocide. In Hotel Rwanda, General Juvenal Habyarimana from the Hutu ethnic group ascended to power in 1973 through a military take-over. He led the country through dictatorial leadership.
His assassination allegedly by the Tutsi rebels sparked the beginning of the genocide. Atrocities against human rights committed in the Killing Fields occurred under the brutal regimes of Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge.
The themes of betrayal and forgiveness are effectively painted in both films. In Hotel Rwanda, Paul who is the main character is married to a Hutu. He provides asylum to the Tutsis who are the target of fellow countrymen from the Hutu ethnic group. Hutus feel betrayed by Paul and even threaten to unleash their anger to him together with his family.
He lives under fear of attack from the Hutu militias as because of his role in providing asylum to the Tutsis. Dith Pran in the Killing fields equally finds himself in a similar position as Paul. Khmer Rouge calls for his arrest and detention in the forced labour camp for befriending foreigners. Rouge felt Pran had betrayed his regime by associating with Schanberg and revealing sensitive information about the regime.
Both films are stirred by real-life individuals who have lived to give accounts of the genocide they witnessed. Paul was a true hotel manager who provided refugee to the several Tutsis when the Hutus were baying for their blood. Similarly the three journalists who covered the Cambodian massacre are real people; Pran experienced the genocide and was recounting the story to his foreign friends Schanberg and Swain.
Although Hotel Rwanda lacks scenes of violence as compared to the Killing Fields, a few scenes portray violence. Such a scene is when Paul and his crew drive themselves into a mass grave because of poor visibility caused by mist. There are also scenes of violent shootings and mayhems as heard from the sounds.
Differences between the Killing Fields and Hotel Rwanda
The setting of Hotel Rwanda is rather calm; the film makers chose to avoid the depiction of violence and indiscriminate killings characterized by the genocide. The film paints a picture of optimism in the Rwandan genocide. It instead achieves a goal of creating awareness about the genocide and stimulating international discussion on the events of human rights violation during the genocide.
The killing field on the contrary, brings out the clear picture of violent killings accompanied with a scheme of friendship. The intervention of the US in the Vietnam War leading to massive killings in Cambodia is clearly communicated to the viewers of the film. The narration style adopted in this film is more likely to stimulate humanitarian intervention action about the genocide.
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The audience to the Hotel Rwanda is unlikely to react or make a call for international intervention in the genocide as a result of the style of narration chosen by the producers. A genocide movie must have several scenes of violence and massacres; Hotel Rwanda therefore fails to bring out the true nature of the Rwandan genocide.
Hotel Rwanda compares a situation of genocide and lack of attention by the western humanitarian agencies in the Rwandan genocide case. The film instead paints a rather calm picture not expected in genocide. Terry George glorifies various historical events making the movie steer away from the theme of genocide that would stimulate humanitarian intervention.
The Killing Fields is on the other hand set out with lots of violent episodes that would characterize genocide. This style of narration stimulates intervention action from the audience more than that of Hotel Rwanda.
The Killing Fields clearly communicate the role of the US intervention in Vietnam as well as the magnitude of the violence experienced in Cambodia. This sort of narration clearly paints the grave need for humanitarian intervention in the genocide; Hotel Rwanda does not have the potential to arouse a consideration of intervention.
There is a conspicuous absence of the relief agencies in Hotel Rwanda and instead Rusesabagina is portrayed as the only provider of relief to the vulnerable Tutsis. He provides shelter to more than a thousand Tutsis in his place of work after they ran away from the brutal hands of the Hutu militia men. The greater humanitarian role of Rusesabagina overshadows the main theme of the movie-genocide.
The Killing Fields describes gruesome events of the history of the 1984 Cambodian, genocide giving a deeper understanding of the ineffective policies of the US humanitarian intervention. Hotel Rwanda serves as an educational lesson to the audience on genocide, the film does not stimulate a call for action and not even cause guilty in the genocide perpetuators.
There is a show of biased interest and attention to genocide by the US and Humanitarian agencies. There is no attention paid to the crimes in Rwanda by the US or the western humanitarian agencies except Paul who takes it upon himself to provide human relief to the war victims.
It is a different situation in Cambodia as revealed in the killing Fields. The US was actively involved in the provision of intervention logistics. A question begs for answers is whether the US and western humanitarian agencies had a special interest in the genocide in Cambodia and not in Rwanda.
Hotel Rwanda would sound to the viewers as a fiction than a true story of what happened in Rwanda during the genocide. The value of the UN troops is grossly misrepresented in the whole story and fails to represent its true picture as pointed in the autobiography narrated by Rusesabagina. The killing Fields paint a true picture of genocide, comprising of several scenes of devastation scenes.
Such emotional scenes are in line with events of genocide. The sad and deplorable mood and tone set in the beginning of the movies runs through to the end of the movie. Scenes of naked children crying in the film represent a situation of desperation. This is different from the romantic mood painted in Hotel Rwanda as depicted by Paul and wife as well as the warm relationship that exists between Oliver and Paul.
Genocide results in massive loss of lives and property. It is important that we all commit ourselves to prevent acts of violence, racial and ethnic divisions as this have always resulted in genocides. Genocide movies help in creating awareness of the actual picture of events that characterize a particular genocide.
Such movies should be narrated in a style and tone that reveals the reality of event of the genocide. A movie that recounts the true happenings serves not only to create awareness among the audience but also stimulates the action of humanitarian agencies.