May 21, 2005
Hotel Rwanda: Ramblings and Review
A few days ago, I watched Hotel Rwanda in exclusive pirated DVD at the comfort of my room. I was blown away. This film has to be one of the most haunting, terrifying and traumatic film I have laid my eyes upon. It's 2nd only to Schindler's List in the Top 10 Most Genocide-inducing Films Ever Made.
In a nutshell, the film is about the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and how one man tried his best to save the refugees huddled in his hotel, the Hotel Mille Collines, amidst the uncertainty of being chopped into pieces anytime and the frustration of how to escape hell before hell turns its eyes on them. The Rwandan Civil War cum Genocide, for us, has been obscured by media indifference and by the silence of the Western powers. Bill Clinton even signed an Executive act decreasing the number of American personnel deployed for international crisis. This was just after the killing started in April 1994.
The main reason why those gorill... i mean, Africans went amok and started killing their fellowmen was because of racial hatred. Yep, just like those fat obese rancid-smelling White trash Americans who discriminate any person whose skin is a bit darker than theirs. While in L'etat Rwandaise, the hate was vented on a more collective and orchestrated way. Think of the Ku Klux Klan gone national lynching and hanging anyone who is black.
Anyhow, the story goes that Rwanda was incorporated into the world of European colonies at the start of the 20th century, and they fell into the hands of the Belgians. Can you imagine that little snot-sized Belgium, the southern part of then defunct Spanish Netherlands, have the audacity to rule over the lands and peoples thousands of miles away? I mean, this was a country that was never a colonial superpower and back then, they had no vast resources or military might to speak about. They were the doormat of Europe during the bloody Napoleonic wars, WWI, and WWII. So, in a way, they have no inkling whatsoever how to diplomatically rule over a colonized race such as the Rwandans. They are not veterans in the imperial game, hence, Belgians were greedy and stupid enough to grab vast African territories without even thinking what to do with it. They weren't able to exploit the vast jungles of Zaire (former Belgian Congo) for the betterment of their country like the British in Canada or force their culture upon the natives like the Spanish in the Philippines. They employed cruder administration tactics than the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), British in India or the French in Indochina by pitting one peacefully existing tribe against another by means of racial parameters like nose sizes and height. They would say in florid French, "This girl is a Hutu since she has a nose the size of Lake Victoria!", or "This lady is a Tutsi because she's tall as the giraffes of the savannah!" Something like that. (I'm rambling, I know.)
Anyway, the Belgians separated the Tutsis and Hutus based on race, and during their rule, the elite Tutsis dominated almost all positions of government and civil society while the Hutus who were deemed inferior was said to be good only in planting kamote and passing wind. After WWII, Rwandans gained their independence and the Belgians left the reins of government to the already oppressed but majority Hutus. And that was when the Hutus thought of exacting revenge against the Tutsis. The Hutus killed many Tutsis in sporadic bursts of amok-ness (making them into Tutsi rolls) during the 60s and 70s prompting them to flee to neighboring Uganda and Tanzania. And during the 90s, rebel Tutsis (from outside) began to counter the Hutu rage, hence putting both tribes in a tightrope of racial tug-of-war. This is where Hotel Rwanda steps in.
Anyway, to put the story in perspective, the assassination of the Hutu president in 1994 sparked the grand genocide against the Tutsis. This was precipitated by hate broadcast in Radio Mille Collines aired by the Interahamwe (a Hutu militia trained by Hutu-dominated military to terrorize, torture and kill suspected Tutsis by means of machete knives.) They say that rebel Tutsis killed their "beloved" president and they must exact revenge on the accused by killing all the Tutsis they can find. And kill they did.
I can't even believe how a million Tutsis were killed by means of machete knives. They should have imported samurai swords from Japan instead of buying them from China. Anyway, it was more gruesome than Schindler's list. In the movie, I saw bodies litter the highway like flies, whole families lying on the ground face-down dead with their bungalow homes burning in the background, so many militia brandishing their machetes on the streets, naked Tutsi women being coralled in a chicken coop while being abused, and kneeling Hutus being hacked to death in just one blow ala Tiger Woods. It was already traumatic to see Jews being gassed to death, so much so that this movie is doubly traumatic because, fuck, the whole genocide happened just 10 years ago. It was a time when I was having a grand time in high school that this event took place halfway around the world.
It was not just I who was callous and ignorant and indifferent but the whole wide world herself. No one cared. No one gave a damn that a million Africans became Mah-ling in a span of three months. No one even gave a second look that over 40,000 floating bodies were fished out from Lake Victoria. Only Red Cross and other NGOs were brave enough to give a damn. You'll feel guilty watching this movie.
The movie (just a short review here) is spectacular and moving. The acting was superb and the flow of the movie was intense. You know that any minute now, they will all be hacked to death. You can feel the tension of being trapped with no hope whatsoever for these people (since the UN and the Western powers will not bring forces to quell the violence) just like during the Fall of Saigon when many Vietnamese tried to enter the American embassy. You know it's futile and you know it's not the end of the movie- it is the beginning... the beginning of hell. I cried when Rwandan schoolchildren were forcefully separated from their white teacher. One will have an idea that those black children will soon be killed by the militia. You will be riveted in your seat and you'll leave the room with a heavy guilty feeling. But don't worry, the movie is PG13, so no extended hacking sprees were included. You won't regret watching it. Read the reviews because most, if not all, say that Hotel Rwanda is one of the best films in 2004.
Today, the Mille Collines have opened its doors to tourists and the tourists themselves have been coming in droves again to Rwanda to see the black hairy Gorillas (sorry no racial pun intended) and the genocide sites. The government knows that covering that tragic event is futile, so it uses it as a tourist lure. And it's working.
Current genocide occuring in the world today (Yes! It's happening as you comfortably sit here reading this blog!): DARFUR, SUDAN (see pics below)