Nepali Times
Problems don’t disappear


Kigali, 1994. Paul Rusesabagina, house manager of Des Milles Collines, has just bought Cohiban cigars to entertain his guests with style. Outside his home and hotel is chaos and conflict. The streets are lined with men in green fatigues carrying guns and machetes. The Hutus are out to kill the Tutsi rebels and the violence in Rwanda can only grow worse.

The radios crackle to life as they tune into the Hutu Power Radio. This media is their medium for brainwashing the Hutus by referring to the Tutsis as 'cockroaches' and 'tall trees' in their propaganda. "They must be cut down", "They must be squashed". The Hutu rebels believe that they can only win by wiping out the entire Tutsi tribe. In the midst of all this is Paul, a Hutu married to a Tutsi, assuring people of the end of the conflict until he flees to Belgium. His love for his family leads him to summon extraordinary courage and save 1,268 Rwandans. And they were extraordinary times.

Just a decade ago, in the age of the Internet and hi-tech gadgets, the genocide that swept this country in sub-Saharan Africa was virtually ignored. The UN and world super powers hid their selfish interests behind the technicality of big words and bureaucracy. "We are here as peacekeepers not as peacemakers," says UN's Colonel Oliver (Nick Nolte) in an interview during the course of the movie. And one journalist remarks in disgust to the world's indifference, "They'll say 'Oh my God, that's horrible!' And go on eating their dinner."

Nepal, 1996. Much as it seems unbelievable that genocide went unnoticed just two years ago, you wonder at the world's selfishness. You wonder at the people's indifference as an insurgency grows its roots in your own backyard. The least developed regions are the most fertile grounds and Kathmandu continues to ignore it hoping it will go away.

Kathmandu, 2005. The streets are lined with men in green fatigues carrying guns as tall trees that took years to grow are being cut down. Your radio can easily crackle with propaganda as it tunes into an underground station still dispensing news of sorts. Beyond your bubble city, there is chaos and conflict. You watch the news on tv every day and exclaim, 'Oh my God, that's horrible!' and go on eating your dinner. Tomorrow, you will have something more to talk about.

One agreement has been signed and another is to follow. The west has not ignored us completely but as you rush from this reception to that party to that conference and this conflict management workshop, you wonder who is really hiding behind the technicality of big words. You can taste the fear when you watch Hotel Rwanda in the comfort of your home because the smell in the air around you is all too real.

The 'them' fast becomes 'us' for Paul and all the Tutsis taking refuge in Hotel Des Milles Collines. And Colonel Oliver, despite himself, explains in disgust why the world doesn't care, "You are dirt. We think you are dirt, less than dirt, you're worthless. You're not even a nigger-you're African." When all else fails and the world leaves them to their own defence, they know that their only way out is to 'shame them (the world) into helping us'. When no help comes, you wonder-was the world too ashamed to turn around or had it grown so indifferent that it was beyond shame?

Hotel Rwanda is a true story of heroism in today's world telling leaders their ego could cost too many precious lives. Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina and Sophie Okonedo as his wife Tatiana are brilliant. Directed by Terry George, the screenplay is especially effective without the usual glamourised terror of Hollywood films. As a movie of social conscience, it moves you beyond indifference.

Hotel Rwanda is available for rent at
Suwal Video, Rs 75. 4421522, Rs 50. 5551655
Utsav Video, Rs 45. 4422655
Akash Video, Rs 35. 4440688

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)