January 18, 2005

Hotel Rwanda Turning Us Sappy


If the merits of a movie could be based on the number of weird and vaguely hysterical telephone calls the Cinecultist felt compelled to make after watching it, Hotel Rwanda would deserve a special award. After we caught a screening a week or so ago with the Capn' and lovely Jori, we walked home in a daze, still wiping the fresh tears out of our eyes. In this emotional state, we felt it necessary to try to call random family members promising we'd protect them from the machete.

This may sound like a silly response to a mere movie, but there's something extremely resonant about this character's experiences. Oddly, Hotel Rwanda despite capturing the experience of one man and his family during genocide in a remote African country, felt incredibly immediate. Obviously, this has huge part to do with Don Cheadle's stand-up-to-cheer acting performance as Paul Rusesabagina, the real Rwandan hotel manager who saved over 1000 people from massacre.

But the most amazing thing about Paul, as depicted by Cheadle, is how ordinary he is. He lives this enviable but mundane middle class life. He holds a good job, knows the right people, and thinks of himself as a rational man living in a rational world. However, all of these "truths" can not protect him from the upheaval across formerly European imposed racial lines as he witnesses his countrymen at war with each other in the most brutal fashion. The fact that Rusesabagina risked his own life to save so many other lives is incredibly inspiring, but to also see him make mistakes and at times doubt his decisions, is incredibly affecting.

Even though the film ends happily for Paul's immediate family, the journey they take during Terry George's film is so exhausting and emotional, CC couldn't help but desolve into tears during the final reel. Hotel Rwanda is a movie which unsettles our routine as it thrusts us into this horrific, real world experience. This may not be a feeling which lasts, and in some ways, it just wouldn't be possible to maintain that level of empathy through the day to day grind. Yet as an object of artistic expression, Hotel Rwanda appears to be one of lasting importance.

Posted by karen at January 18, 2005 11:30 PM