Monday 28 November 2011

Films which change your life

Today, another excellent guest post. Your author this time is Fran, who writes the brilliant blog about craft and life Skulls and Ponies. Fran's chosen subject is a film which changed her life. Thanks to Fran!

When dotmund asked me to write about a film that had impacted on me in some way I was very excited! It’s a great credit to film makers all over the world that a two-hour interaction between people portraying a story about something-or-other on a digital screen can effectively change your life. I know that sounds terribly melodramatic, but it’s true. Whether it be a beautiful love story that helps shape the way you view relationships (*ahem-all-teen-movies-ever-ahem-10-things-I-hate-about-you-ahem*) or a horror film that leaves you terrified of turning the light out at night; it can change how you choose to interact with the world. For me that is an amazing ability. It’s like a super power.

The film I’m going to write about is one that really fucked me up for a while. It got under my skin and became almost an obsession for about three months of my life. The film in question is not a gooey love story that had me searching for my soul mate, nor a tense thriller that made me afraid of my own shadow. This film not only educated me about a real life event I, ashamedly, had no awareness of but it gave me such tremendous hope for humanity whilst at the same time making me inextricably sad. The film is Hotel Rwanda.

I saw Hotel Rwanda in the comfort of my own living room in 2007 and cried throughout the entire movie. I wasn’t just crying because of the horrific content but crying because it showed how one man, one actual real life man, showed such immense courage and bravery despite his world literally falling apart.

The story is that of Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu man married to a Tutsi woman, who ran a prestigious hotel in Rwanda. Despite death on his doorstep every day, and constant bribes to the Hutu military to even stay alive he continued to take in and shelter Tutsi refugees. He took in about 1200 refugees in total - saving all of their lives.

In 2007 when I watched this film, I had absolutely no idea this atrocity had happened. In 1994 I was only 10 years old but it shocked me that someone like me, who is educated and (somewhat) intelligent and aware of the world could have no idea this even happened, even in retrospect. Yet even at the time it wasn’t well publicised. When the footage of the mass murders going on in Rwanda finally did hit the national news, neither Europe nor the US chose to intervene. The whole of Rwanda had only 300 UN peace keepers (who were not permitted to attack) to defend them. Over one million people were killed in the Rwandan genocide. One million.

I think anyone who has seen this film would probably struggle to shake it off, but I just could not get it out of my head. At first I wanted to educate myself about the genocide, so I spent hours and hours reading up on it. I then discovered the film was based on a book called “An Ordinary Man” by Paul Rusesabagina. I bought the book immediately reading it cover to cover. I couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened and how it had happened and how the UK had done nothing. I would talk about it all of the time, to anyone that would listen. I wanted to know if other people knew about it and if they did how it wasn’t consuming every minute of their waking day like it was me.

This went on for months. Eventually I managed to claim my life back and stop thinking about it quite so much but I don’t for a second regret watching the film. I am so very glad I did and I am glad it consumed me for those 3 months because I needed to know. I needed to see, I needed to be educated, as did the world. Maybe this is an extreme example of the effect a film maker can have on his/her audience, but hopefully a poignant one. That film is imprinted on my brain forever and I am glad.

I want to leave you with just a few excellent and thought provoking quotes from the film:

Jack: [after Paul thanks him for shooting footage of the genocide] I think if people see this footage, they'll say Oh, my God, that's horrible. And then they'll go on eating their dinners.

Pat Archer: [Red Cross Volunteer relaying the last words of an orphan slain by the Hutus] Please don't let them kill me. I... I promise I won't be Tutsi anymore.

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