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Kaivon Williams ENC1102 Joseph Cottle 1/25/13

Film Analysis Paper The film Hotel Rwanda details how Paul Rusesabagina, general manager of the Milles Collines Hotel, took action and risked his life to save thousands during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Everyone who found shelter in the hotel survived. In April of 1994, Rwanda experienced one of the worst genocides that mankind has seen. The two races of the country, Hutus and Tutsis, had gone to war over feelings of vengeance and grudges that date back to before World War I. The racial division was created by Belgian colonists when they arrived in Rwanda. The Belgians chose the Tutsi to rule because they were already in power and had lighter skin similar to the Europeans. Soon after, the Belgians returned and began measuring nose and skull widths, deepening the tension that already existed between the Hutus and Tutsis. Eventually, the Hutus started a revolution to end the oppression that plagued them for so many years and ended the Tutsi’s rule. Hotel Rwanda has many underlying themes that allow it to be an interesting and intellectual film. It speaks about discrimination and stereotypes. These themes say much about our culture today. Discrimination is a significant hindrance of our society. Judging someone’s skills or personality solely on their physical appearance is an unjust and unfair evaluation of that person. In the film, Paul receives news that the UN is sending an intervention force to remove the refugees from the hotel and out of the country. However when they arrive, they make it known that they will only be taking the white foreigners from the hotel, such as the French and Belgian tourists. Just as the buses prepare to leave, a priest and nuns from a mission arrive with many


children, believing that the children can go on the bus. The commanding officer tells the priest “no Rwandans.” In full knowledge of the horrible things that were occurring in Rwanda at the time, the intervention force broke their promise and left the Rwandans behind. Almost all of the UN Peacekeepers were removed from the country. The West had chosen to leave the Rwandans to their fate because of the color of their skin. They were looking to save those of their own race, and left everyone else to their fate. The Rwandans had become victims of aversive racism. Aversive racism is defined as “a modern form of prejudice that characterizes the racial attitudes of many whites who endorse egalitarian values, who regard themselves as non-prejudiced, but who discriminate in subtle, rationalizable ways” (Buttner, p. 130). Those of the white majority felt that their actions were completely justified, but in reality they had just discriminated against the Rwandans. Discrimination is still prevalent in today’s culture. In the United States, individuals who receive the most discrimination are of minority races such as African Americans, Asians, Mexicans, etc. Individuals of these races are seen as different from the majority Caucasian race. Discrimination occurs in a number of places. When applying for jobs, minorities may be seen as incompetent or only suited for certain positions because of their race. While in a store, African Americans may be watched more closely by workers who think they may steal something, all due to the color of their skin. Discrimination does not occur randomly, but rather is based in stereotypical views of race. Unrealistic perceptions of certain (usually minority) races cause our society to be broken, and result in untrustworthiness towards one another. As Shayla Nunnally notes, “Although stereotypes can be either positive or negative, they historically have had a malignant effect on the characterization of Blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, and American Indians… they “otherize” them as being inferior in comparison to Whites” (Nunnally, p.253). We feel as if an individual’s appearance has a direct correlation to that person’s


intelligence, character, and ideals. It limits what we can accomplish and stalls our progression into the future. The Hutu-Tutsi relationship is a prime example. The distrust and hatred that had existed between the groups for centuries evolved into a national genocide. It will take years for Rwanda to recover from the tragedies that took place in 1994. Years that could have been spent developing the country for the benefit of its inhabitants. If we could learn not to judge others on appearance and to not be so distant from those of other races, society would improve. Ideas and knowledge would be exchanged. Relationships and friendships would form. Discussions on topics of the day would take place. At the end of the day, we are all human beings, and we should not treat each other in the way that we do. Showing courage can be a difficult task. We may need to gather the willpower to make a major change in our life, or to stand up to someone. Rarely does one need to have the courage expressed by Paul during the genocide. To stand in the face of murderous oppressors and refuse to give in to demands requires an immeasurable amount of bravery. According to ancient Greek thought, “Courage as a virtue involved knowledge of the self as well as knowledge of the ends for which a danger was faced� (Schwartz, p.346-47). Paul experienced many frightful events during the genocide. Soldiers forced him and his family out of their home. He was ordered to kill his family members or risk being killed himself. The Hutu army continuously commanded him to turn over the Tutsi refugees that were staying at his hotel. In the midst of everything, Paul maintained his resolve and stood up for what he believed was right. An example of his incredible resolve is when his family and a few others received exit visas to leave the country, he was prepared to sacrifice that opportunity and stay behind to protect the remaining refugees. Paul’s courage can be example to us all. Too often do we only talk about our concerns and problems rather than acting on them. Talking about the problem will never solve it. We should take proper action to change the things we wish to change. We should set goals and make plans to achieve


them. Setbacks and obstacles will come, but you cannot let them slow you down. When the soldiers from the Tutsi army came to the Miles Collines and demanded the Tutsi refugees, Paul had to quickly think of ways to fend them off. They were his obstacles, but he did not let them divert his focus from protecting the refugees. Paul’s courage gave him the drive to move through his obstacles. I believe that having a plan for your life is one of the most important things you can do. Everyone should formulate a plan for their life and follow it. You cannot wait for handouts or help from others. You must go out and secure your future and your dream. Having a purpose in life keeps people moving forward rather than standing still and accepting their current circumstances. It takes courage to make the decision to move your life forward. Hotel Rwanda, along with its compelling storyline, carries many undertones and messages that still resonate in today’s society. It speaks on unfair treatment of minorities and how one’s bravery can make a difference. Discrimination, though now done very discreetly, is still common. Individuals are still treated differently because of their skin color. Although there are laws in place to try and prevent it, discrimination still happens. This film also gives insight into how mistreatment can drive a group of people over the edge in search of justice. Stereotypes are still believed by many to be accurate depictions of individuals from certain races. The mettle shown by Paul in the film is a great example of how a little bravery can go a long way. If we all applied a fraction of Paul’s bravery to our individual lives, we could accomplish so much. Hotel Rwanda compels us to sympathize with the plight of the Rwandans and to hope they can escape from the violent place they are in, but also causes us to reflect on our own lives and to question ourselves. Have we ever treated a person of another race differently? Do we believe in stereotypes? Have we shown courage at times when it was needed? These are just a few of the thoughts that may arise after watching such a deep film. We should take the messages that Hotel Rwanda delivers and carry them into our everyday lives.


Bibliography 1. Schwartz, N. L. (2004). "Dreaded and dared": Courage as a virtue. Polity, 36(3), 341-365. 2. Buttner, E. H., Lowe, K. B., & Billings-Harris, L. (2007). Impact of leader racial attitude on ratings of causes and solutions for an employee of color shortage. Journal of Business Ethics, 73(2), 129-144. 3. Nunnally, S. C. (2009). Racial homogenization and stereotypes: Black american college students' stereotypes about racial groups. Journal of Black Studies, 40(2), 252265. 4. George, T. (2004). Hotel Rwanda. Film.


Bibliography 1. Buttner, E. Holly, Kevin B. Lowe, and Lenora Billings-Harris. "Impact of Leader Racial Attitude on Ratings of Causes and Solutions for an Employee of Color Shortage." Journal of Business Ethics 73.2 (2007): 129-44. Print. 2. Nunnally, Shayla C. "Racial Homogenization and Stereotypes: Black American College Students' Stereotypes about Racial Groups." Journal of Black Studies 40.2 (2009): 252-65. Print. 3. Schwartz, Nancy L. ""Dreaded and Dared": Courage as a Virtue." Polity 36.3 (2004): 341-65. Print. 4. George, T. (2004). Hotel Rwanda. Film.

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