Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #8

Re: Hotel Rwanda (2004)

I was just wondering what you thought of the scene in Hotel Rwanda where Paul asks his wife Tatiana to “take the kids up to the top of the hotel and jump” if they find themselves in a situation where they cannot escape from the Hutu extremists. Although that never ended up happening in the film, I found that scene to be very problematic and kind of annoying in a film that otherwise displays Christ-like courage under barbaric circumstances.

While it’s true that Catholic moral theology holds that that suicide is always morally wrong, even in the face of certain and horrific death, I wouldn’t judge either Paul or the film too harshly. Given the circumstances, Paul’s moral calculus is at least understandable, if not acceptable. It is a realistic portrait of what many sincere people would conclude is a morally valid option under such circumstances. To face being hacked to bits by machete, to say nothing of watching your children facing the same fate, is more than many of even the bravest of us could face without extraordinary supernatural graces. We don’t have to agree with Paul’s decision to sympathize with a husband and father trying to make the best decisions he can under dreadful duress.

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