The subject of Rwandan slaughter that happened in 1994 and took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Rwandan people has been brought up by a number of authors and film makers. One such film is Hotel Rwanda produced by Terry George.
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Hotel Rwanda focuses on the theme of presence of the West in the course of the civil war in Rwanda and the price of the Western silence which resulted in the fact that the massacre of hundreds of thousands Rwandan citizens went unnoticed by the West even though it happened in the era of television and telecommunication when the news ran round the clock.
The film depicts the merciless slaughter of Tutsies in Rwanda featuring one main protagonist Paul Rusesabagina who struggles to protect his family, neighbors and friends hiding them in a four star hotel where he works as a manager. Paul is a Hutu and technically he would not be harmed by the Hutu army, but most of his close people are Tutsies, so Paul does everything possible –lies, pretends, wins time, and even bribes the soldiers – to save the lives of his loved ones and hundreds of other threatened people hiding in the hotel.
The theme of the reaction of the West, namely the United States and Europe is ever-present throughout the film. One of the best phrases reflecting the true attitude of the West was said by a representative of the United Nations forces, he said: “We are the peace keepers, not peace makers” (Hotel Rwanda).
In the film it is showed that there was no one to protect the interests of innocent Tutsies during the massacre, there were no political or military powers to direct troops to guard simple citizens, helpless men, women and children who were slaughtered right in the streets together with their families.
Representatives of the West are present in Rwanda in the very beginning – they are tourists, Red Cross workers, press, United Nations forces, and priests. Yet, all of the non-Rwandans are evacuated by their countries as soon as the war begins. As for Rwandan people – no one is there to take care of them.
The main protagonist who has faith in the West and expects its intervention is shocked when he finds out that Rwanda is not significant enough for the western community to take any action and stop the violence. Realizing that Paul suggests the refugees to “shame the West into action” (Hotel Rwanda).
The film is a reflection of the power balance in the world demonstrating that being right inside of the situation Rwandans cannot do anything to help themselves, but their friends from the West are able to reach out and save their lives from the outside, without even being a part of the conflict. Symbolically, Rwandan money is useless during the conflict. Paul is unable to pay for supplies or protection with it, only the western currencies are valued.
This is another sign of how powerful the Western silent presence is in Rwanda. The passive reaction of the West shows its consumerist attitude also present in Stassen’s Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda when the Frenchman comments on the war saying “What a waste!” referring to all the killed young women who never got to prostitute themselves to a western man (Stassen ).
Hotel Rwanda, just like Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda, is a visual demonstration of the horror and unbelievable cruelty that burst out in Rwanda in 1994 and remained un-responded by the western community, powerful enough to stop or at least minimize the killings with just a minor intervention.
Hotel Rwanda. Dir. Terry George. Perf. Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Joaquin Phoenix, Nick Nolte. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Lionsgate Films, 2004. Film.
Stassen, Jean Philippe. Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda. Trans. Alexis Siegel. New York, New York: First Second, 2006. Print.