Can you name a film that changed the way you see the world? Yes, I can. “Hotel Rwanda.”
I had seen the movie once before, but it wasn’t until I watched it a second time during the course of a class titled, “Race and Gender in the Media,” that I deeply understood the root causes of the fight amongst the characters within the film. I blame some of my ability to see deeply into the politics of the film’s story on the new material that we studied in the class, including our readings from the book, “America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality at the Movies,” written by Harry Benshoff and Sean Griffin.
However, another big reason why the film resonated with me at this point in my life was because prior to watching the film, I had recently been awakened to the oppression that black Americans, including myself and my family, experience here in America even today that has been strategically set up in this nation by the powerful ideation of white male Christian supremacist privilege. I had already been going over in my mind countless new ideas of what I could do to help the plight of black Americans who are oppressed in the U.S.
Therefore, seeing the film “Hotel Rwanda,” and finding out that, at the core of the issues between these beautiful black people who call themselves Hutus or Tsunis laid a manipulative idea of hierarchy spawned by white people who once had control and power in the Rwandan area, was digusting and disheartening to me, but yet so familiar. Paying close attention to the film, I realized how the briefly alluded to white people who once controlled the region were the most corrupt leaders in the entire story, and they barely had active roles on screen in the film.
I found the following excerpt on the Modern History Project which explains how and why the division was created amongst the human beings in Rwanda:
British Indian army officer John Hanning Speke was the creator of the racialist hypothesis known as the “Hamitic Theory”. In his writings, Speke suggests that the Tutsis are more European than the Hutus. Their caucasoid facial features, combined with their smoother personalities was proof enough for him that they were more cultured than the Hutus. This theory was basis for all racial and cultural division between the Hutu and Tutsi in later years. It made specific definition as to how one race was superior to the other, therefore giving said superior race much power and influence. ( https://modernhistoryproject2012.wordpress.com/history-of-hutu-tutsi-relations/ )
This information is somewhat relayed in the film. With all that being said, I finally realized that a system of distrust, jealousy, privilege vs. non privilege can be created very easily and does not require black and white skin tone to do it. It only requires subtle differences, evil or greedy intent, and resources to provide to one group vs. another. European colonists are at the root of so many divisions between groups of people. This film was powerful because from it, I was able to see the real magnitude of the issue which ripples beyond blacks in America, but also see the commonality in the issue which is the ill intentioned stone the creates a negative ripple.