Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Introduction to Hotel Rwanda
Hotel Rwanda is a film based on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Running battles between the Hutus and Tutsis led to the massacre of more than 800,000 Rwandese citizens. The war between Hutus and Tutsis is highly fuelled by bribery and corruption that mar the political scene in the country. It traces back to the Belgians who colonized Rwanda. Belgians, who took after the British system of divide and rule, established tribal lines between the Hutu and the Tutsi.
Tutsis were a minority group, forming about 20 percent of the population while the remaining 80 percent were Hutus. Belgians favoured the Tutsis because they considered them as having leadership values. Hence, they were given a privileged status. This quelled resentment among the Hutu, who felt they were overpowered by the Tutsis after Rwanda gained independence yet they were the majority.
The Hutus got fed up with the Tutsi minority rule and decided to retake power by force. That was the beginning of the civil war between Hutus and Tutsis. Tension built up when Habyarimana, the Rwandan reigning president, was assassinated. Hutu extremists killed more than half a million Tutsis during the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of about 1 million Rwandans. The genocide ended after the Tutsi rebels overran the Hutus in the war and regained power with foreign support.
Behaviours of characters in Hotel Rwanda
Paul Rusesabagina, the main character, is a Hutu who is married to Tatiana, a Tutsi. Paul’s marriage causes a lot of conflict especially between him and Augustin Bizimungu, the Rwandan Army General who supplies his hotel with friendly goods. Bizimungu also leads the Interahamwe, a very brutal anti-Tutsi militia group that is responsible for the massacre of close to one million Tutsis.
Paul and his family observe their neighbours being killed as political and ethnic violence worsens. Paul tries to divert the Hutu soldiers by bribing them alcohol and money with an aim of maintaining adequate food supplies for his family. When the civil war heightens, Paul negotiates the safety of many people and brings them to the hotel. More and more refugees from the Red Cross, orphanages and the United Nations camp keep flowing to the hotel which Paul struggles to maintain the operations to appear as a luxury hotel still. Amidst all these, Paul actively maintains his role as a father.
Since the United Nations peacekeeping forces have been forbidden to intervene in the prospects of the genocide, they cannot take any assertive action against Interahamwe. As the foreign nationals are evacuated from the country, native Rwandans remain behind. Several times, the UN forces try to evacuate Rwandan nationals including members of Paul’s family they are ambushed and asked to return by the Interhamwe. Paul’s bribes of alcohol and money no longer work, hence he threatens Augustin Bizimungu, the Rwandan Army General, that he will be tried and acquitted as a war criminal.
Finally, the refugees in Paul’s hotel along with his family manage to escape in a UN convoy. They go through a long journey, wading through threatening masses of Hutu rebels, militia and refugees before crossing the safety lines of Tutsi rebels.
In this film, Paul Rusesabagina is portrayed as a very intelligent man. Born to a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother, Paul is generally a Hutu but married to a Tutsi wife. This mix makes it hard for him to prefer either side—something that contributes to difficulty in managing an escape from the hotel. However, he intelligently manages to hide and sustain many Tutsis by bribing the Rwandan Army General with gifts of money and alcohol to help him with supplies of food and security. At one time, he goes out with his driver to get more food for the hotel residents and has to alight from the car to push bodies of dead Tutsis that were lying all over the road. Taken aback by this scene, he cries in pain and asks his driver not to tell anyone about what he had seen. He not only knew that it would also quell more wrangles and mayhem but also that if this information leaked to the Army General then he would have landed himself to trouble.
Paul is also portrayed as a man who upholds family values amidst the greatest risk. He hides his family in a special guest suite in the hotel where he attends to them to brief them about the progress of the civil war. He hides his children and wife from experiencing some of the worst life threatening events to ever take place in the world. He’s portrayed a bold loving father. In life, though few, there are some people who manage to balance their job and their family and also take care of their extended family and friends. This is especially common in developing countries where one has several dependents. By bringing to safety and providing food for more than 1,000 Tutsis, Paul demonstrates love for humanity. There are many people in life, especially activists and freedom fighters that have showed love for their communities and countries at large. In society there are many people who behave like Paul. They are honest to their values and duties. They maintain close friendships with their colleagues and lower level staff amidst their busy schedules. They are quite approachable and they are more than ready to listen to family issues even at the workplace.
Tatiana Rusesabagina, Paul’s wife, is depicted as timid and loving mother. When they are almost killed in the truck as they travel in a UN envoy, she practically disowns her husband for driving them into an ambush. However, she’s finally relieved when they cross to safety. She begins to desperately search for her two nieces who had been orphaned as if they were her own children. This is a sign of love and extreme care for humanity. Like her husband Paul, she also holds family values by trying to care for her family as much as possible. Tatiana is the typical mother who is very approachable, kind, generous and sympathetic. She is very approachable with dialogue and such people always keep their word.
The film Hotel Rwanda is a very touching and at the same time disturbing film. The whole plot of the film revolves around two tribes in Rwanda, the Hutus and the Tutsis, and from there we can see different social and psychological issues that came about as a result of the tension between the two tribes.
Through the course of the film, negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, hatred, anger, hostility, and rage have been shown but if you look at the film in a macro perspective, the dominant emotions that surface especially from the main character, Paul Rusesabagnia, are love and empathy. While watching the movie, I felt a knot in my tummy when I saw the scenes of Tutsi “prostitutes” being raped and tortured as if they were not human.
It is evident in the film that group perceptions such as stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination occur. In my observation, the stereotypes that have been occurring between the Hutu and the Tutsi have rooted from historical, political, socio cultural and socio psychological issues. As we all know, this all began way back when the Tutsi collaborated with the Belgian colonies and prior to that, when the Mwamis (kings) distributed land to the people, instead of distributing it to kinship (wherein they were mostly Hutu) the Mawims appointed people who would get the land and most of them were Tutsi. Then, political rule came in and most of the appointed chiefs were Tutsi. These Tutsi chiefs demanded the Hutu people for manual labor in return for the land. Hierarchy became the structure in Rwanda’s society wherein the Hutu people became peasants and the Tutsi chiefs became the feudal masters. Because of this, there have been social categorizations or rather an in-group/out-group preference between the Hutu and the Tutsi.
A few examples of stereotypes in the movie was during the first few minutes of the movie wherein Paul and a employee from the hotel finished buying supplies from George Rutaganda, in the car, the employee told Paul that George Rutaganda is a bad man and that he heard that George killed Tutsis. Though we learn that this is true in the latter part, the employee judged George just because of his race even though he really did not know George. Second, they were driving back to the hotel and they ran into a celebration or parade of some sort and the people in the streets began to come near the van and look at the driver, disgusted. The reason for this was that the people knew that the driver was a Tutsi. Lastly, in one scene, a radio announcer had broadcast a message to the president: “…Mr. President, be ware. Do not trust the Tutsi rebels; they will stab you in the back…”
The Rwanda genocide depicted in the film was in a time when some of the Hutu and the Tutsi were getting along… or so we thought. Because of egoistic deprivation and fraternal deprivation, the Hutu people started a revolution as sort of a “payback” for everything that the Tutsi people did to them in the past. All of this happened because people were focused on preserving their personal and social identity. Prejudice was shown from both groups and in the same context.
Altruistic behaviors have been seen throughout the movie. However, there were situations wherein egoistic behavior had been dominant. There was a scene wherein Paul asked a favor to a Red Cross volunteer to look for his wife’s brother and family; of course, the Red Cross volunteer agreed upon the request. Another was when the priest and some sisters from the orphanage went to the Hotel so that the Tutsi children would be safe; Paul decided to let the orphans go in the Hotel. Third, there were some UN officials instead of retreating to the United States, they came back to the hotel and helped the people there.
In contrast to altruistic behavior that had been shown, there were also some egoistic behaviors. Bribery has been one of the main reasons why Paul and the people with him have survived the genocide. One instance was when the police came and arrested Paul and some of his Tutsi neighbors, the police found out later on that most of them were Tutsi so the police called Paul to kill the “cockroaches”. Paul was an intelligent man. He knew exactly what to bribe the police with so that they would not kill the people that were with him. There was another scene when Paul was talking to his wife and he said “…I store up favors so when there is a time when we need help, we have powerful people who can help us…” This latter example may be a form of reciprocal helping.
Personal norms are one of the reasons why Paul continued to help other people who asked him for help. There was one scene wherein his family was able to ride with the UN and go to a safe camp but Paul was having second thought about leaving the other people behind. Here, Paul’s moral obligations and values were the tool that gave him the conviction to stay and protect those who were left behind.
I remember the movie Schindler’s List where the same plot happened but in this movie, the Jews were the ones who were protected from the Nazi’s. Schindler’s list was also a true story that revolved around a businessman who had a factory and uses Jews as laborers. As soon as the Nazis took reign, they tortured the Jews and killed those Jews using gas chambers in Auschwitz. Honestly, it pains me to see people, innocent people, suffer for no apparent reason. I could not imagine how those people would kill hundreds and thousands of people without feeling even the tiniest remorse. I could only imagine how emotionally bruised these people are to not feel anything or maybe their cognitive perception of what is right or wrong was distorted.
This got me thinking, what happened to us that we are slowly losing empathy for other people. We are slowly being apathetic. Do we really want to be this way? What has happened to our society? I believe that the film industry should show more films like this in order for the people to remember that there are people who need our help. It is our responsibility as human beings to help one another. These movies should serve as a wake up call for us and that we should reflect on ourselves and ask why are we acting this way?
Personally, I commend the people that chose to create this film as a way of reaching out to people all over the world. This should serve as a wake up call and as a conviction to each of us that our world does not revolve only around ourselves and our loved ones but we should also be affected and thus act upon the problems and adversities that people across the world are experiencing. Let us prove to ourselves and to other people that we are not the type of people who were described by the American reporter; people who “…sees the footage and say ‘Oh my God…’ and continue eating their dinner…” Let us prove to ourselves and to the rest of the world that we are not apathetic.
Hennig, Rainer. “The Cross and the Genocide.” afrol News. 2001. 13 April 2008. <http://www.afrol.com/Countries/Rwanda/backgr_cross_genocide.htm >.