Hotel Rwanda, the African Schindler’s List

We’re just back from seeing the movie Hotel Rwanda at the Angelika in Greenwich Village.  The (true) story is about a Belgian-owned hotel in Rwanda where about 1000 people take refuge from the mass slaughter of Rwanda’s 1994 civil war.  As with Schindler’s List there is a background of killing but hardly any of the people featured in the movie are killed.  Perhaps this is the only way to make a commercially successful movie about genocide.

[Note to business folks who might be thinking of investing in Africa…  the one person in the docudrama who was both competent and honest emigrated to Belgium.  This was a sad echo of Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari travelogue in which any African who developed the skills necessary to help Africa immediately emigrated to Europe.]

9 thoughts on “Hotel Rwanda, the African Schindler’s List

  1. Philip,

    There is something you are overlooking here. The positive effects of the migration are visible only in the long term. How do you know that all the people who had developed the skills to help Africa left it? What is your source in getting the list of those people?

    Let me propose my theory of how it happens. It’s not that 100% of people with skills to make a positive change in Africa emigrate. 50% do and 50% don’t. The 50% that do have high visibility as they do well in Europe (and/or other countries). The 50% who don’t have very low visibility as 1. not much news about good work comes out of Africa and 2. not much is accomplished by them sitting in Africa because they don’t have enough resources at their disposal.

    Fast forward it to 50 or 100 years. The number of people who are developing the required skills increase. The percentage of the ones that remain to the ones who leave remains more or less constant. However, there is a big number of skilled people at home to do good work and even more importantly, there is a big number of skilled people in rest of the world who have mustered the resources and influence. They do contribute back home. Which makes the people at home more effective and the world takes notice of it.

    Perhaps you would like to take a close look at the development of India and China.

  2. Last night I started reading Daniel Stern’s “Who Shall Live, Who Shall Die” a novel originally published in 1963 and republished by Rice University in 1994. it is set, more or less in the world of NY theater circa mid fifties. This was a period before the Nazi slaughter of Europe’s Jews was really talked about much less known as “The Holocaust”.

    Elie Weisel, an Auschwitz survivor, wrote the foreword for the 1994 re-publication. In that foreword is a wonderful couple of paragraphs dealing with art vs. the horror of genocide:

    “I believe it ( the novel Who Shall Live, Who Shall Die) stands among the best of its genre. Yet it raises a problem. More exactly: it is not the novel, but the subject or the genre itself which becomes a pitfall. Explicitly: is this a work of fiction about what for lack of a better name we so inadequately call the tragedy of the Holocaust? And if it is, doesn’t such a book contradict everything some of us believe about the death camp experience and its possibilities of transmission other than by memory?

    “These are not new questions. They trouble all of us who, without denying the novel’s intrinsic work, seek to protect our loyalty to memory. if it is difficult to describe a night, a selection at Auschwitz,, to imagine such things is impossible. A novel about Birkenau is either a novel or it is about Birkenau, but not both at once. Indeed I must repeat here what I have been saying for years: the more a novel on this subject is a “good novel,” the less it is the truth. By definition, Auschwitz denies art and places itself beyond language. To put it simply: it was less difficult for a prisoner there to imagine himself free than for a free man anywhere to imagine himself there. Hence the challenge no novelist can avoid if he takes the Holocaust as his theme: his endeavor is doomed to failure from the start.

    ” And yet there is Daniel Stern.”

  3. Note to wussy mush-headed idealists: you need to have more than a few individuals in a country who are honest. You need to have a critical mass of them; and some kind of infrastruture, and a somewhat functioning civil society that does not wholly depend on family or tribal ties. Only then can you really have a useful country, one that is worth spending your life in.

  4. Note to PatrickG: your comment is born of your romanticized notion of Africa as a “safari” — one in which, “society…[is] wholly dependent on family or tribal ties” and a certain (repugnant) smugness that makes you declare, in self-adulation, “there goes us but for the grace of God.”

  5. Note to PatrickG: your comment is born of your romanticized notion of Africa as a “safari” — one in which, “society…[is] wholly dependent on family or tribal ties” and a certain (repugnant) smugness that makes you declare, in self-adulation, “there goes us but for the grace of God.”

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