31 May 2008

A different kind of movie review

Hotel Rwanda is a stunning movie. Let's put aside for a moment that the cinematography, the score, and the acting were pretty close to phenomenal.

I'm aware that this was a fictional account of actual events. "Based on a true story" is one of my least favourite phrases when it comes to marketing films. It usually means, "We cut out all the political stuff and changed the story enough to make the protagonist sympathetic." But in watching the movie, I can't help but pinpoint an essential truth: The West doesn't care about Africa. Hell, The West doesn't care about anything that isn't The West.

An estimated 800,000 people died in Rwanda when tensions between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis exploded. Most of those killed were either Tutsis or Hutus who refused to join the militias. I'll point out that this is generally accepted as fact, although not everyone agrees on how the bloodshed started, or why.

Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) has the same horrifying realization over and over again: no one is coming to help and no one cares. In the beginning, he just wants to stay out of the whole mess. He is Hutu married to a Tutsi. He doesn't understand the ethnic hatred, but doesn't want to take a stand, either.

Of course, he does, or there wouldn't be a movie about what a hero he was.

The movie upset me, and it wasn't just because of this particular story. It was because of how disturbing it is to know that atrocities like this happen and the world frequently shrugs its shoulders and begs off with an excuse. However, when someone knocks down some American architecture, or we're afraid that oil might break $75/barrel (oops, too late) intervention is everywhere.

I'm not necessarily blaming the US -- or its leader (although these people do) -- for what happened in Rwanda, or what's happening anywhere (except, specifically, Iraq). But this stupid "not my problem" idea that exists is completely detrimental. Wars are happening. You might be sitting at home in your living room (I am), but it affects you. You just haven't seen the damage yet.

Well, maybe someone will buy carbon offsets before the next slaughter. Then we can at least breathe easier.

No comments: