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Heroes are not born; they arise at the spur of the moment. In 1994, a nationwide genocide campaign engulfed Rwanda, a country located in East Africa. This led to the death of over half a million people while a similar number were displaced. Properties worth millions of shillings were lost in the ensuing conflict and consequent destruction either through looting or burning. Hotel Rwanda is an American film set in Rwanda that explores the situation on the ground at the time and seeks to establish the root cause of the conflict. The movie focuses on Paul Rusesabagina’s real-life experiences, whose role is played by Hollywood’s renowned actor, Don Cheadle. Rusesabagina, who prior to the genocide served as a senior management officer at Milles Collines Hotel, managed to save the lives of 1238 people through ingenuity, canny means and his sound connections. This essay shall focus on the role media and the international community in fueling or quelling disputes. It shall seek to establish whether both the media and the international community in Rwanda conducted themselves appropriately or they led to the escalation of violence in a genocide that could have otherwise been averted.
At the movie’s start, the audience is conceptualized with the situation at hand. The viewer learns of the vast Hutu media control, and their impeding operation against the Tutsis. The Hutus form the major ethnic tribe and hence feel that Tutsis are blemishes on a land that they feel belongs to them. Most of this inappropriate and hate-filled campaign is aired on RTLM, a former Rwandan national radio and television broadcaster. There are no counter-measures or checks put in place to ensure that content aired to the public is non-partisan and does not bring about ethnic divisions in an otherwise multi-ethnic nation. In addition, the Hutu-dominated government planned the attacks to occur concurrently with South Africa’s first post-independence elections, ensuring that there was little response from the international community or coverage from the world press. Therefore, the international media failed in their obligation to investigate and report on this horrendous event. On realizing that there were high tensions and that there was an impeding attack, the media should have reported this to the international community, thus drawing attention to the murky, dark undercurrents that were about to erupt. Therefore, not only did the local media fail in meeting their obligation of broadcasting information that was non-partisan, but also the international media failed in reporting on the likelihood of an impeding disaster.
In addition, the international community, the United Nations in particular, is depicted as having failed to protect Tutsi Rwandans who had fled to the Milles Collines Hotel. Rusesabagina worked tirelessly to protect and save lives as the massacre erupted. However, as soon as UN soldiers drove up to the hotel, they clearly stated that they were only going to allow foreign nationals to board their planes. The Canadian Colonel stated that because they were African, they would not be helped. This clearly indicates racism, at a time when these people were in desperate need of help. Instead of sending troops to quell the dispute and prevent the loss of more lives, the United Nations sent its army in order to save foreigners and leave the nation literally burning.
In conclusion, Hotel Rwanda is a captivating movie that leaves the audience emotionally drained. The heroic acts carried out by Don Cheadle as Paul leave the viewer mesmerized and inspired by how much one can do in order to change the society around him. However, the film is highly fictionalized and at times seems to loose a touch with reality. Despite these shortcomings, the movie manages to deliver both an emotional and political punch.