Yesterday Paul and I planned to go the Arclight see the film Shi mian mai fu (House of Flying Daggers), a nicely surrealistic martial arts film I’ve been wanting to see. But as these things go we got stuck in traffic on Sunset and arrived 10 minutes after the film had already started. As an alternate choice, Paul surprised me and asked if I still wanted to see Hotel Rwanda, a film I’ve wanted to see for several months, but that I thought I’d see alone as it isn’t really his sort of picture.
The film is wonderful in a way — Don Cheadle’s performance is fantastic. It, the film I mean, suffers a bit through its effort to garner a PG13 rating. I say suffers because we end up hearing about acts of horrific violence, but we never have that moment of crystalized horror (in contrast to the moment in The Pianist when the father in his wheel chair is thrown from the upper floors by laughing Nazis when his family says he’s unable to leave the apartment). I’m not big on gore, but I know what happened in Rwanda and feel, despite its desire to raise the consciousness of the West who looked away from the horror when we should have interveined, it inadvertantly filtered a bit too much.
That said, one of the most thought-provoking moments was the scene where Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager and hero of the film, tells the 1000+ people he’s sheltering that they must save themselves, that the West and UN have forsaken them. He tells them to make calls, to tell people that might be able to help them that if they cannot, that this is goodbye. The caller and their family will be killed. I found myself wondering on the ride home what I would do. Could I help this person who reached out through the phone asking me to save them from death? Who could I call on their behalf? I’d try everything, even if I thought my effort was doomed as I suspect most people would.
These thoughts merged into a discussion I’d had earlier about the notion that one life is worth more than all the world. That the individual life had to matter. And so, why do I need a phone call? I haven’t made calls, I knew what went on in Rwanda and, though frustrated at my nation’s inaction, I did nothing more than feel frustrated. So many died. Paul Rusesabagina has said repeatedly as he has received humanitarian awards that he only did what he thought he had to do. He’s also commented that "never again" are the two most misused words of our century. For indeed, genocide is allowed to happen again and again (witness Sudan) as our leaders discuss whether "genocidal acts" constitute "genocide."
So my question for myself, and for my small circle of readers is were someone to reach out to you/me through the phone begging for your/my help to save their life and you knew you were their only hope, who would you/I call? Then having throught that and knowing the situation Darfur, why do we wait to be personally asked?