Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

I wanted to go to see a movie tonight, because a) I have no parent to tell me "you shouldn't, it's a school night" and b) because it's cheap night. I had been leaning toward Constantine (I know, I know, but it's based on an Alan Moore comic and looks intriguing enough), but finally decided that Hotel Rwanda would only be a Pacific another week or so, and that it was more important. I think I made a good choice.

Hotel Rwanda is one of the most affecting films of the year. I really don't know what to say about it. We all know about the horrific events that occurred in Rwanda in 1994, and I don't really know what else to say about it. It's the kind of thing that you can debate and talk about all night. How horrific genocide and hatred is. How frightening to see your family and neighbors hacked apart with machetes. How frusterating it must have been for the UN commanding officer (in real life Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire; in the film a fictional colonel played by Nick Nolte) to have to sit by and be able to do nothing. Really this is one of the great shames of the Western world and our failure to do anything to stop the bloodshed until over a million Hutus were dead.

But the real challenge for a filmmaker is how to tell the story on a scale and level that we can identify with. As Stalin is credited with saying, "A single life is a tragedy, a million is a statistic" or something to that effect. Director Terry George, with help from the real life Paul Rusesebagina, manages to tell a story of ordinary courage, real ingenuity, anchored with the love of a man for his wife and children. It's a story on a scale that makes the characters matter to us, without losing track of the larger significance.

Don Cheadle is excellent as Paul Rusesbagina. His Oscar nomination is well deserved. Also, I enjoyed the soundtrack. I really like African choir music, and the credits song by Wyclef Jean is good too.

I guess that's another more minor thing that bugs me after watching the film. How can anyone actually walk out of the theatre and say that Ray was a better film? I just don't understand. This is a film that needs to be seen for the content, but appreciated for the fine manner in which it is told. All in all, a fine film.


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