Recently, a survey was taken of Republicans in Mississippi about inter-racial marriage. Over 50% of the respondents believed that inter-racial marriage should be outlawed. Here is the link to the survey: http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/04/nearly-of-mississippi-republicans-think-interracial-marriage-should-be-illegal.php This was disturbing for several reasons. The first is that half of the respondents said this. The second is that some people will say what is socially and politically correct but in their actions and their hearts they believe something else.
The actions and hearts of the world and a very, very few good people is explored in the film Hotel Rwanda. Hotel Rwanda is the true life story of a Hotel Owner in Rwanda named Paul Rusesabagina who in 1994 in the middle of a genocide that would ultimately murder over 800,000 people, that is more than the population of San Francisco, risked his own life to provide sanctuary in his small hotel.
Hotel Rwanda has three radically different and amazing performances. Nick Nolte, in his last great performance, as a United Nations Military Commander who is ordered to not engaged the murders. His pain, anger, frustration and indignation come through in a scene win a bar with Don Cheedle, who plays Paul Rusesabagina. This monologue echoes the underlying question of “Would the world have acted to stop the genocide if they people being murdered were white?”
Joaquim Phoenix gives the second best performance of his career (number one is Reservation Road). He plays a reporter/photographer sent to report on the genocide. His detached seemingly too cool for school false apathy serves as a great contrast to Nolte’s anger. Phoenix’s response to Cheedle asking why the world will not act when they find out the truth of “The world will watch this says this is horrible and go back to eating their dinner.” This shows that perhaps it was not racism that stopped the world from acting but general apathy.
The fulcrum that balances these two counterpoints that represents the world’s response is the brilliant Don Cheedle. If you only know him from the Ocean’s 11 movies check out this film. His character is forced to be a calm, iron butterfly that must be all things to all people to save the thousands of people who would otherwise perish. Paul Rusesabagina (Cheedle) does not ask permission to do the right thing. While Nolte and Phoenix character’s find excuses to let evil continue. Paul Rusesabagina (Cheedle) sees that there is evil in the world and he will do what he can to stop what he can. He does not save everyone, but he does save all he can.
This is one of the few bio-pics on my list. Please read about the true story of Hotel Rwanda on Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotel_Rwanda The world turned its back on innocent men, women and children. We let 800,000 be murdered. This should haunt us. We cannot change the past, but ask yourself these questions:
1. What evil did I stop today?
2. What evil did I create today?
The answers to those questions will tell you who you would be. The brave hotel owner, the soldier who would not fight, the journalist who would not feel or one of the people swinging the machetes.