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What are some examples of neo-colonialism in the film Hotel Rwanda?

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Examples of neocolonialism appear at regular intervals throughout the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda. Rwanda was colonized by Belgium following World War I, before which it had been a German colony. Basically, the region’s experience with European imperialism had been long and unfortunate. The legacy of that imperialism continued through the horrendous period of genocide against Rwanda’s minority Tutsi population by the majority Hutu—a genocide, the film illustrates, in which the outside world, including the former colonial powers, failed to act until it was too late.

Hotel Rwanda tells the story of a hotel manager, Paul Rutuganda, struggling throughout the crisis to save as many lives as possible while pleading with foreign (white) emissaries to intervene to stop the bloodshed. Legacies of imperialism abound, such as with the Belgian ownership of the hotel and the figure of Bix, a Belgian national helping to run it. The hotel caters to wealthy Europeans, a constant reminder, again, of the nation’s history as a European colony. Two good examples of neocolonialism in Hotel Rwanda, then, occur in the context of the European (and American) failure to respond to the massacre of Tutsis. The United Nations, when it finally does respond to the violence by dispatching a minuscule intervention force, clearly has no interest in expending blood or money on behalf of the poor African civilians. In one of the film’s key moments, the United Nations representative Colonel Oliver tells Paul that the military intervention for which the latter has been pleading will simply not occur. “You’re black,” Colonel Oliver tells Paul, “You’re not even a nigger. You’re an African.”

Another example of neocolonialism in Hotel Rwanda is when Paul, the film’s conscience, complains,

There will be no rescue, no intervention for us. We can only save ourselves. Many of you know influential people abroad, you must call these people. You must tell them what will happen to us . . . say goodbye. But when you say goodbye, say it as if you are reaching through the phone and holding their hand. Let them know that if they let go of that hand, you will die. We must shame them into sending help.

Note the phrase, “shame them into sending help.” The ongoing genocide in Rwanda was a direct outgrowth of Belgian’s colonial rule, during which it visibly favored a minority ethnicity, the Tutsis, at the expense of the majority Hutu. These comments by Paul are intended to represent the depths to which Africans had been forced to descend and their inability to overcome the burdens of colonialism. The continuing legacy of European imperialism included the creation of an atmosphere and the circumstances in which yet another genocide could take place.

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