Question

You just viewed a scene from the film "Hotel Rwanda" starring Don

Cheadle. This film is an account of the genocide that took places in this country in 1994. For hundreds of years, the two major tribes of Rwanda were the Hutu and the Tutsi. They lived together with no animosity between them. When Belgium colonized Rwanda, they gave preferential treatment to the Tutsi because they (the Belgium's), thought the Tutsi's to be "superior" due to the fact that they were taller, their skin was lighter and their noses where pointier. This caused a divide between individuals of Hutu and Tutsi descent even after the era of colonization came to an end. As new generations were born, they no longer blamed the Belgium's, they blamed the Tutsi's themselves because the new generation of Tutsi's (growing up in this divided culture) began to see themselves as different from the Hutu.


In this particular scene, a hotel manger (who is a Hutu) by the name of Paul is buying supplies from a distributor and fellow Hutu. Paul is hiding Tutsi friends and neighbors in his hotel and the news is spreading that Paul is a Tutsi (Hutu's also refer to them as cockroaches) sympathizer.

-What does your text say about Dominance and Subordination between Groups? How did the discrimination by the Belgium's change the cultural perceptions of these people?

Answer & Explanation
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Paul Rusesabagina's character portrays both the positive and traumatic effects of a severely damaged tapestry of society, where two existential paradigms, each with different sets of aspirations and symbolic expressions, co-exist in incoherent ways as a result of centuries of Western intervention.

In the film Paul develops from a person who pursues his own interests to someone who risks his life for the sake of others. To interpret his behaviour as heroic, or as resembling those of Oscar Schindler, may reflect a modern Western view, if it is assumed that he overcomes a current reality too devastating to be confirmed as the ultimate in his striving for a better tomorrow. Such an interpretation of courage and sacrifice, hailed for being special in society, is devoid of a relevant, and additional, perspective of an interconnected societal bond that needs to be affirmed and restored for the sake of the spiritual wellbeing and worthwhileness of the individual as an integral member of the community.

Hotel Rwanda (2004) portrays a haunting, true tragedy and the human potential to live with spiritual integrity in the absence of hope for physical survival. If it is the ethical responsibility of a film critic to focus, first and foremost, on the portrayal of the film character and not on the self, it is perhaps not too much to ask to consider symbols from different existential paradigms in the historic context of the film. To reduce someone else to the way I understand life without even trying to engage with the other's world, may perpetuate neglect, exclusion and othering. In this case, it would compound the human tragedy that Hotel Rwanda (2004) urges us to not forget or repeat.

 

In view to the fact, that for the first time Paul realises that those he regards as his allies, the very people who inspire him and on whom he relies for help, are not real friends. It made him realiize that he can trust no one.  In a striking symbolic scene in the film, rain pours down as the Western hotel guests, including the press, are accompanied to the rescue vehicles by the staff with umbrellas. Paul, who oversees the departure, is drenched. As the buses leave, the hotel staff huddle under the overhang of the entrance and Dube steps forward to offer Paul the shelter of an umbrella. But it is too late. His clothes and his body are soaked from head to toe.

The scene suggests a significant shift or turn in Paul's experience of reality. Liquids or fluids, such as the pouring rain, have multiple symbolic meanings, such as the beginning and end of all things on earth, intuitive wisdom, the mother-imago, the universal congress of potentialities; the female principle and unconsciousness (Cirlot 201:364-367). In this dark moment, Paul experiences an acute personal crisis. He no longer knows where he fits in or what to believe. It is evident that his identification with Western power, style, goal-orientation and the ability to shape life are crumbling - he confesses to his wife in a private moment: "They told me I was one of them, and I... the wine, chocolates, cigars, style... I swallowed it. I swallowed it, I swallowed all of it. And they handed me their shit. I have no... no history. I have no memory. I'm a fool, Tati." With the Western peacekeeping forces and hotel guests all gone, Paul encourages the displaced to save themselves by phoning influential people abroad and asking for help with repatriation.

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