There have only been a handful of movies that I have walked out of needing to just sit and ponder. In the Name of the Father, Shawshank Redemption, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List come to mind immediately. Hotel Rwanda is the same sort of movie.
I have done a good amount of reading about the Rwandan Genocide, and even spend several days at the end of my Holocaust unit studying it with my world history students. The movie did an amazing job of capturing the mood of the chaos that must have reigned during those 100 days. I was even more surprise to later read that Paul Rusesabagina – the main character – was an advisor to the movie and even there during a large part of the filming. No pressure Don Cheadle. That fact does further authenticate the movie for me.
What the movie touched upon, though not as much as the Frontline special that I show in class, was the lack of action by the west, including the United States. They even used an actual news conference by a Clinton Administration State Department official stumbling over a question about the difference between acts of genocide and genocide. I don’t understand how we could sit and watch. How we could argue about semantics. Now, I don’t understand how we can look at the Sudan, call it genocide, and still not intervene. It is always an interesting class discussion when I prompt them to think about when the United States should intervene. With the invasion of Iraq, last year’s discussion was even more lively. This year’s group will likely be the same. We help in a country that doesn’t seem to want help, and not in a country that really needs it. The kids usually come up with some good reasons.