Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hotel Rwanda

The movies keep on coming, and the latest one to have passed before my eyes is the Oscar-nominated true story Hotel Rwanda. Call me old-fashioned, but when I see the word Rwanda in the title of almost anything, I'm pretty sure not to expect a laugh-fest. And you know what, I was right in this case, just as I often seem to be. Funny that.

To my shame, I'm not particularly well informed of current events. Until only a few short years ago, I never used to watch the news, and I never buy a newspaper and never have. So back in the days of the Hutu uprising in Rwanda, I really had no idea what was going on. Yes, I'd heard the key words -- Rwanda, Hutu, Tutsi, genocide, massacre, etc -- but I didn't really know what was actually happening, who these people were, and why it was all kicking off over there.

Without a doubt, many of the people who find themselves reading this will know more about it than I do, but suffice to say it was another war of stupidity. (Aren't they all?) And it ended with a million Tutsi corpses. This in a country with a current population of some 9 million. Can you believe that? More than ten per cent of a nation massacred, usually with a machete, men, women, children alike, especially children, in order to wipe out the next generation, over some supposed difference in race, tribe, ethnicity, whatever the fuck you want to call it.

Seemingly, though, according to the film, this "difference" between the Hutus and Tutsis was decided upon by the Belgians when they ruled the region. The taller, more elegant, lighter-skinned people with slimmer noses became the Tutsis; those shorter, blacker, wider-nosed folk are the Hutus. What kind of crazy shit is that?

What's it all about, Alfie?: Hotel Rwanda is a kind of an African Schindler's List. Hutu hotel manager Don Cheadle risks his own life to save as many Tutsis as he can, starting with his wife, her family, and his Tutsi neighbours. But the enormity of his task soon becomes clear.

Any good?: Cheadle, as ever, is great. He almost never disappoints. (I'll not mention that terrible Dick van Dyke accent in Ocean's 11, okay?) And Brit Sophie Okonedo puts in a good performance, too, as his Tutsi wife. Strange casting, though, since Cheadle's slight build makes him a far more delicate-framed person than she, in contrast to one of the "Belgian rules" set out a couple of paragraphs above. Supporting roles go to Joaquin Phoenix and Nick Nolte, no doubt to help bring a few Americans into the cinemas.

The film gives a good grounding in the basic history of the situation, I suspect, but it could perhaps have been more graphic in its depiction of the violence. Just one scene, maybe, to really hit home with the brutal horror of a situation that the rest of the world just didn't think was important enough to intervene. I guess that's what happens when there's no oil to protect. Just a bunch of crazy niggers with machetes, huh?

Numbers, please: Hotel Rwanda is a good little film, although I fear it mostly trades on being "worthy". But it is worthy -- in the best possible way. I rate this movie 65 out of 100.