The first hint that there’s something wrong with this film that purports to deal with the killing of a million people in 1994 can be found on the DVD, which is emblazoned with “ACADEMY AWARD” in big letters on one side and “GOLDEN GLOBE” on the other. In both instances, a closer look reveals that the film was only nominated - it didn’t win any. One up for the panel of judges.
This is a film that simply fails to engage, one that left this viewer more or less uncaring about the people who died in Rwanda – quite an achievement – a film that uses radio and TV bulletins to spread its propaganda in soundbites (“France armed the Hutus”, “The Belgian colonists chose the aquiline Tutsi to help them run their empire and thus caused the war”). The US, UK and Italy also get thrown in the mix at various points, as the guilt is shovelled around, leaving the German viewer pleased that the Hun isn’t being blamed for this “Holocaust”.
The clichés are as nauseating as they are predictable. The hack reporter who is thrilled with the footage of a massacre is British (a Scot this time, as Hollywood shows it knows there’s more to England than London), while his photographer (a Hemingway figure who got the footage by dodging among the machetes) is American. He doesn’t only get the footage, he gets the Tutsi bird (the one without the flaring nostrils but with the flaring passion for corny pick-up lines at the bar) as well.
From time to time the tedium is underscored by the appearance of a very tired looking Nick Nolte, who looks far too old for his bright blue UN bib. He bumbles around for the most part (drinking Paul’s single malt and aging with very scene) before he saves the day and his convoy with only his pistol, magically getting the black guys to fight each other and even healing a tire shredded by a black guy’s bullet.
It may indeed be the case that the west doesn’t care about black guys (black birds are different, as Joaquin Phoenix shows); it may also be the case that the west cared more about “Yugoslavia” (coz they were whitey), but that’s no excuse for being a lazy film-maker.