In the film Hotel Rwanda, the story of Paul Rusesabagina’s life is put on display. It opens with a scene with the characters Paul and Dube, a fictional character based on the Tutsi workers of the Milles Collines. Paul is discussing what “style” is to Dube; they proceed to drive to pick up supplies from Georges Rutaganda. Rutaganda is a businessman and the leader of the Interhamwe militia group responsible for the genocide. At first, Paul appears to be his friend, yet when Rutaganda asks Paul to join the Interhamwe, Paul refuses saying he is too busy. Immediately we see Paul is a good person who doesn’t want any trouble. Later, we find out why Paul doesn’t want to be a part of the Interhamwe; his wife and children are Tutsis. As the movie goes on, the Interhamwe get stronger and stronger as the political unrest is growing. Once the Hutu president’s plane is shot down, the Hutus begin to “cut the tall trees down” as the radio announcer explains.
This was a sign to being the mass murdering of all Tutsi people, especially Tutsi children. Paul begins to worry about his own family’s safety and once their neighborhood gets attacked, he brings many people to the Milles Collines, where he works. Due to the Milles Collines being a five star hotel, Paul is worried he is lowering the standard of the hotel. At this point, Paul is trying to hide the fact that he is hiding Tutsi’s in the hotel. He is trying to keep the reputation to avoid suspicion from the Interhamwe rebels. Soon, however, the UN guards who have been assisting the Milles Collines with safety are being told to evacuate. They take with them all of the non-Rwandan peoples and leave the others left with no protection.
There are many close calls with the Interhamwe and the refugees, but Paul avoids the conflicts by buying off the generals and bribing them for more time. The UN soldiers finally return with visas for many of the families to leave the country to escape persecution; however not all of the families could leave and it was a difficult process for Paul having to leave, not knowing the outcome of so many he had tried to help. At the last second, Paul decides to stay and help the others while leaving his family.
The Interhamwe find out that the UN are smuggling Tutsi refugees out and ambush them. The UN car ends up returning to the Milles Collines and does not help any of the refugees. Eventually, after another conflict with the Interhamwe, the refugees escape to the safe side of Rwanda with the UN soldiers.
My overall impression of the movie was depressing, yet inspiring. The whole genocide itself was unbelievably cruel, but Paul’s actions to work against the genocide were so inspiring. It is very important to show the film Hotel Rwanda in Catholic Social Justice because during the genocide so many rights were taken away from those who had no say in the matter. At one point in the film, the character Jack Daglish, one of the journalists and photographers who filmed in Rwanda, asked one of the women if she was Hutu or Tutsi; she answered Hutu.
The same encounter went on with another girl sitting right next to the Hutu woman, yet the other woman said she was Tutsi. The irony of those encounters is that both women looked like they could be twins. The Hutus and the Tutsis have no real differences. Another reason students should be watching this movie in Catholic Social Justice is that it teaches students to stand up for what is right. There were countless times in the movie where Paul could have denied refugees from entering or left with his family to save just them; but yet, he stayed and fought for what he knew was right. This is the definition of a hero and a role model for children everywhere.
Over the course of the movie, many human rights were violated and abused. Firstly, and most importantly, the Tutsis right to life was taken away. They were brutally attacked, raped, tortured, and murdered simply for being a Tutsi. The Interhamwe did not care about anything besides exterminating the Tutsi population. Secondly, the Tutsi’s right to security was taken away. During the genocide, the Interhamwe came to a Tutsi’s house, ransacked it, lit it on fire, and proceeded to kill them with no intention, other than to kill. None of the Tutsis had any security whatsoever, and were always on the lookout for someone looking to kill them.
Thirdly, the right to justice/free speech was clearly taken away. Not only did the Hutu rebel groups kill the Tutsis, they killed them for no reason. Over 90% of the Tutsi population were innocent bystanders who had never done anything wrong in their life, yet because of prejudice and hatred, the Interhamwe killed 1 million people in 100 days. They killed 6-7 people per minute. That is the highest and fastest rate of any genocide taken place. Fourthly, the Tutsi’s right to property was taken. The Hutu rebel groups would destroy the Tutsi’s home, steal their goods, light their houses on fire, and murder the innocent people living there. The Tutsis had no freedom. And finally, the Tutsi’s spiritual rights were taken away. It didn’t matter what you did, how hard you cried, how much you begged, the Interhamwe were heatless beings who killed for fun. The Hutu rebel groups did not allow the Tutsis any spiritual rights, economic rights, or any rights at all. They killed whomever they saw and did it because they wanted too.
Not only were human rights violated, but also the Themes of Catholic Social Justice were desecrated. The first theme, life and dignity of the human person, was obviously debased. To have over 1 million dead in 100 days is absolutely crazy! All humans are made in the likeness and image of God, therefore each should be treated with dignity and respect; however in the movie, the Interhamwe treat no one with dignity. The second theme, call to family, community and participation, was violated, but also upheld. God calls us to be social and to live within fellowship and community. God also explains that family is the most important thing in life because they teach us support. Obvious violations would be when the Interhamwe mercilessly kill child after child, parent after parent, without any regard to live in peace. But, this call is also upheld.
Paul, his family, and his entire community live by this creed. They stick together through the deepest of times and are always there for each other even when they themselves have nothing to give. The third theme, option for the poor and vulnerable, has two sides to it again. God calls us to have a special place in our hearts for the poor and vulnerable. Clearly, the Interhamwe has no sympathy for any of the Tutsis, especially the poor and vulnerable. Paul, however, cares for those who cannot care for themselves. He helps the orphans when Madam Archer brings them to the hotel, he helps his neighbors seek shelter, and anyone else who need refuge during the time. The fourth theme, dignity of work and rights to work, was again, violated and upheld. From the Interhamwe perspective, they did not care who you were or what you did. If you were a Tutsi, you were a cockroach who belonged dead.
Despite this, however, Paul manages to keep the Milles Collines running and the hotel staff’s rights are upheld. God calls us to value the worker before we value work itself. When Paul becomes in charge, he values each and every worker handling each problem with grace and great leadership. The fifth and final theme is solidarity. God calls us to see everyone as your brother and sister’s keeper. The spirit of friendship and true community is the basis for a just world. Clearly, that is not the Interhamwe’s belief. They wanted to exterminate the entire Tutsi race and did not care how they did it.
Paul and his community, over at the Milles Collines, cared for each other and worked together to stop this injustice from occurring. Despite the conditions they were in, the Hutu and Tutsi people who were living at the Milles Collines lived in harmony and worked together to defeat a common enemy. They worked together to ensure the common good- meaning that every person’s basic needs were met and their rights were respected. Although the Interhamwe violated every theme of Catholic Social Justice, Paul and his community upheld what God called us to do.
Throughout the film, I was inspired in many ways. Paul’s ability to handle so many things being thrown at him was admirable. Although he broke down once, he handled it with the utmost grace and love. Not only did Paul try to ensure that every human’s basic rights, he also made sure that God’s call and the themes of Catholic Social Justice were also met. Paul Rusesabagina’s story is one of inspiration and courage. His story encourages me to get involved more so that people who don’t have a say will have their opinions voiced. Paul and his story will forever be remembered by many. Paul is not only a hero, but also a child of God.