Reflection Paper on Hotel Rwanda The 1990s marked a time of turbulence and unrest in Rwandan history. During April-July 1994, over 800,000 Tutsi people were killed relentlessly at the hands of the Hutu militant group “Interhamwe,” whose name translates to “Those Who Attack Together” (History. com, 2009). Based on true events, Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda follows the Rwandan Genocide through Paul Rusesabagina’s experiences, and from an interpersonal communications perspective, appreciates both the art and importance of three fundamental ideas: culture, self-concept, as well as the interaction of verbal and nonverbal messages.
Paul Rusesabagina regularly faces various cultures both in his professional and personal life. At the luxury Hotel des Mille Collines, Rusesabagina is a sawy hotel manager, and is evidently well-accustomed to Western culture because of its guests. Moreover, his marriage with Tatiana, a Tutsi native, is one that has made him a trusted Hutu figure amongst the Tutsi community. However, when the President (a Hutu moderate) was killed on a flight to Kigali, Hutu-Tutsi tensions worsened, and the Tutsis consequently sought Rusesabagina’s assistance.
With little Western intervention, Rusesabagina assumed responsibility to protect the Tutsis, strategically maintaining his managerial communication style to bribe protection from otherwise uninterested Rwandan officials. Two early scenes in Hotel Rwanda captivated my attention and quickly exposed the hostility created by cultural differences that would manifest throughout the entirety of the movie. In one scene, Hutu businessman George Rutaganda throws a shirt at Rusesabagina nd comments, “[it is] time for you to join your people,” suggesting that such artifactual communication helped maintain the rigid cultural distinction between the two.
Later in the film, viewers can easily determine who is Hutu by clothing alone. Another scene shows Western journalist Jack Daglish conversing with two Rwandan women at the bar. One is Tutsi and the other is Hutu, yet he remarks, “you could be twins! ” For me, this highlighted that the cultural differences did not so much rest in physical appearance, but instead reflected the sociopolitical issues present at the time.
Having said that, it truly would be difficult to distinguish between the two without identification cards; yet, once confirming ethnic affiliations, the Hutu soldiers would immediately adopt an ethnocentric approach toward the Tutsi “cockroaches. ” This negative label alone created a communication barrier, making the Hutu view them as their perceived stereotypes rather than on an individual basis. As the synopsis notes, it is only through Rusesabagina’s negotiations that the Tutsi lives are spared.
Nevertheless, Rusesabagina is too guilty of ethnocentrism at the beginning of the film, commenting in one scene that he “should not have brought the Tutsi here,” or worse, “lowered [the hotel’s] standards. ” It should also be noted that although they are both ultimately Rwandan, ethnocentrism is expressed much stronger through the Hutu soldiers as opposed to the Tutsi refugees. The ethnocentrism demonstrated by the Hutu soldiers underlies the aggressiveness that I saw as a key similarity between Rwandan and American culture.
Both cultures are masculine – that is, besides aggressiveness, they both emphasize strength and success – and it is evident through the value historically placed on military power. In 2015, the United States accounted for 37% of worldwide military spending (National Priorities Project). Similarly, the mass killings performed by the Hutu can be deemed as an attempt to assert both dominance and power over the Tutsi people.
Not only do the Hutu soldiers exemplify a masculine subgroup of Rwandan culture, but they also emonstrate that Rwanda was most likely a high-power distance society at the time. In Hotel Rwanda, power clearly rested in a small group of Hutu soldiers and Rwandan army officials, whose bribery acceptances dictated the fate of the Tutsi population who they deemed as subordinate. On the other hand, I would consider the United States as being a low-power distance society, holding greater emphasis for equality, particularly because it is politically enforced. Needless to say, the political climate contributed toward the existence of highpower distance in Rwanda.
Prior to Hutu-Tutsi tensions worsening, the predominantly western guests at the Hotel des Mill Collines were enjoying themselves by both the bar and pool, highlighting the greater emphasis placed on gratification and leisure in their cultures. However, as the Westerners evacuate the hotel, I think it is interesting to see how the Rwandan hotel workers’ approach to their jobs consequently transform. For instance, hotel worker Gregoire previously refrained from such activities, yet is later caught by Rusesabagina indulging with other women at the hotel once the Westerners depart.
Personally, I interpreted Gregoire’s desire for relaxation as an unconscious attempt to mirror the indulgent lifestyle of the Westerners. Moreover, this highlighted how influential interpersonal interactions with other cultures can be on our selfconcept. Originally, Rusesabagina is somewhat prideful knowing that he has strong professional connections. Having said that, his self-esteem falls when UN Colonel Oliver tells him to “look [at himself] from a Westerner’s perspective; they think you are dirt. Similarly, Gregoire’s refusal to listen to his commands communicated that Rusesabagina’s status as hotel manager was not enough for Gregoire to obey him in the manner previously expressed to the Caucasian hotel staff.
Consequently, as similar events continued to unfold and Rusesabagina is exposed to more of Hutu brutality, I saw his vulnerability amount in a scene where he was neither able to fix his tie, contain his emotions, nor maintain his poker-face, anagerial approach. Now it can be said that Rusesabagina was no longer the prestigious hotel manager he once perceived himself as; however, it is at this point I believe his self-concept began to positively change. For me, this scene not only highlighted the importance of others in defining our selfconcept, but also how we need others to build our selfawareness. He was not only the keeper of his family, but for the whole Tutsi refugee population too.
A peak scene highlights this shift as Rusesabagina decided to stay with the Tutsi refugees without a visa rather than leaving with his family on the UN evacuation vehicles. Moreover, the same scene demonstrates the power of nonverbal communication. Besides Tatiana, barely any of the other Tutsi refugees verbally share their perspectives; yet, you can still infer a collective sense of fear through the use of face affect. Rusesabagina also used facial communication to intensify the assertiveness of his bribes.
Having said that, his expression was not always as successful when applied to the Tutsi; even though he ultimately wanted to help the Tutsi, sometimes the poker-face that he employed for negotiations would simply contradict the verbal messages of reassurance he shared with the refugees. His negotiations were assertive, and Rusesabagina only chose to use aggression strategically. For instance, in the final scene with General Bizumungu, he says “I will tell them nothing unless you help me,” which instills fear in Bizumungu and encourages him to follow Rusesabagina’s requests.
If he had approached his negotiations less assertively, I do not think he would have had the impact he has had today. Ultimately, for me I appreciated how such scenes raised the complexity of ethics in interpersonal communication: is there any situation where typically discouraged communication techniques, such as emotional blackmail, can achieve greater good? IN this case, one could argue that it was Rusesabagina’s only choice. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed how Hotel Rwanda explores the importance of various interpersonal communication concepts.
I appreciated Terry George’s decision to document Paul Rusesabagina’s personal narrative, rather than taking more of a history document approach. ON a political level, it highlighted how adopting the right communication skills for any given context. can quite literally walk the fine line and death. My most important takeaway from Hotel Rwanda is that interpersonal communication truly is a vital skill to develop because you need to be aware of the communication style you adopt in given situation.
Overall, Hotel Rwanda was a compelling and emotionally-charged film that emphasized the significance of strong communication skills in escaping turbulent times. I learned how complex ethics becomes in extreme cases such as this. Having said that, Rusesabagina demonstrated that although he did not carry the status General Bizumungu had, he still took it upon himself to adapt his communication style to contribute toward the greater good. That is, a title does not necessarily make you more influential relative to others; instead, it is how you chose to adapt your communication skills that makes the difference.