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January 27, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda bears many of the earmarks of a Hollywood film that's ready to sucker punch you into weeping submission. As we join Cheadle, we find him to be an admirable and likeable enough fellow. We follow him home to the surburban ranch-style to find kids' toys on the lawn and loving relatives. We see his calm command of employees at the job and his admirable capacity to schmooze with the powerful. He's a good guy and we know he's headed for Hell.

However, the descent is not so clunky, sudden nor simple as one would think, and the filmmakers have done an admirable job with a subject that could have easily been ruined. In fact, I'm not sure that much of a better job could have been done. There are a lot of opportunities for this film to have gone meta-documentary with voice overs from CNN or scenes of people watching an abstraction of the situation on a tlevision somewhere. Instead, people listen to transistor radios as the vile ethnic hatred spews in the now infamous broadcasts.

Hotel Rwanda is a film about the very essence of the human spirit; of the courage born of desparation. I was astounded by the turns of fate and the extraordinary mix of luck, wit and finesse of the main character. But I think these are things that anyone could, and probably should see. For that alone I would give this film one of my highest recommendations, which comes rather easy after several years of ignoring serious film.

The towering lesson I see in 'Hotel Rwanda' is the danger of isolation. It is a lesson, were I a pessimist, that I think might be the hardest lesson the Western, modern man will ever face. We are individualists, but there seems nothing our individualism can do for us when confronted with ethnic genocide. There is only safety in numbers.

Posted by mbowen at January 27, 2005 08:01 AM

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