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Critical Analysis of Darwins Nightmare vs Hotel Rwanda as Development Education Tools in Irish Classroom Settings.


Submitted By Phillycurley
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Critical Analysis of Darwins Nightmare Vs Hotel Rwanda as development education tools in Irish classroom settings.

The world we live in is ever changing, with technology at everyone’s finger tips how can we keep one step ahead in our classrooms to engage our pupils in development issues that were once only found in print texts.
Our pupils live in a media age, where technology is built into their lives, the days of waiting for a weekly magazine for the latest news has all but died with a click of button they have access to a wealth of information from varying sources be it bias or unbiased that is for the reader to decide. As a teacher it is becoming increasingly difficult to distract pupils from the latest celebrity gossip to highlight real world issues of race, poverty, sexuality, exploitation, etc., the pupils of today are uninterested in reading about these issues in text books so a new approach needs to be taken to open their eyes. The use of media texts in delivering development education issues to our cinematographic teenagers is the direction we need to head in. The type of media text used is a choice that has to be made by the teacher when highlighting these issues, the question remains should one use documentaries or blockbuster movies; documentaries by their nature are very factual, complex, have real life images and settings and can be difficult to watch; blockbuster movies on the other hand are produced for entertainment value, they must appeal to the cinema going public, must conform to western norms and expectations, in which direction should one head.
As a teacher I am going to compare the validity of the documentary Darwin’s Nightmare and the movie Hotel Rwanda as development education tools in Irish classrooms to engage our pupils in development issues, to do so I am going to ask the following questions and develop the answers which I feel are of relevance:
Who are the target audience for the texts?
The target audience for Darwin’s Nightmare in my opinion is the western world, it was filmed to highlight how a science experiment of twenty years ago has decimated the region around Great Lake Victoria since the introduction of the predator the Nile Perch and how the trafficking of arms and transport from one government to another is crippling this volatile region, where starvation, prostitution and AIDs were a the daily “nightmare” for the exploited people of Mwanza.
Hotel Rwanda is a depiction of the genocide in Rwanda in the early 1990’s where almost one million Tutsi’s were mass murdered by the Hutu extremists while the Western World refused to intervene in the civil war. The target audience for this movie is the Western World to highlight the powerlessness of one UN colonel, the unwillingness of world powers to assist a nation in disarray and the heroism of one ordinary man as he struggled to protect his family, friends and countrymen when those in power turned their backs on him.
I feel that the pupils of our classrooms would fall into the target audience for either of these media texts as they are the next generation and by highlighting the mistakes made in the past they may be in a position in future to make decisions that may prevent a reoccurrence of these issues or make life choices that will lessen the impact on the most vulnerable.

Do these texts portray a true image?
The images portrayed in Darwin’s Nightmare are as true as one can get, filmed on the ground in Mwanza, Sauper lived among the people and witnessed the everyday suffering of the locals. The interviews, many of which were taken in disguise are harrowing to even the hardest of souls, they are real people explaining the plight which they suffer on a daily basis without batting an eyelid. The text also highlights deeper issues of corruption and arms smuggling which only an ethnographer could uncover. The timeline the events surrounding the Tanzanian prostitute and her subsequent murder are harrowing and as real as one can witness from a far.
The focus of Hotel Rwanda is the heroic actions of Paul Rusesabagina a hotel manager who saved the lives of his family, friends and 1,200 Tutsi refugees, this focus slightly distracts from the horrific details of the genocide that took place over three months in 1994 where over a million people were slaughtered but never the less the text brings to light this terrible tragedy that most of the world chose to ignore and for the vast majority an issue that they were blissfully unaware of. The text, although based on real events saves the audience from the bloodbath that took place by introducing heroism, love and suspense, some would argue that by saving the audience from graphic violent scenes from the genocide that the text isn’t telling the true story but in my opinion by dealing with the subject matter in the way the director did Hotel Rwanda he reached a much greater audience.

Would pupils engage with these texts/ Are the texts too long?
The subject matter of Darwin’s Nightmare is very interesting but also very difficult to watch and digest. I feel that pupils would find it hard to keep engaged in the text because it is a style of documentary that they would be unfamiliar to them, the scenes are shot for what they are, they are not dramatized in any way, the lack of narration to tell the story is also something they would find hard to comprehend, without narration I think that the story and the messages would be lost on the pupils. The length of the documentary would also be a factor in engaging pupils, the documentary would have to be shown in segments for it to be fully appreciated.
Hotel Rwanda is shot in a suspense thriller type format that is designed to engage its audience from start to finish; this is a format that pupils are more familiar with in their everyday viewings. The more animated and dramatized scenes would serve to keep the pupils engaged for a longer period of time and serves to please with a somewhat happy ending, although Hotel Rwanda is two hours in length I feel that watching this text is not hard work for our pupils of today to watch.
What scenes are the most impacting?
The scenes from Darwin’s Nightmare that would be most impacting on pupils would be the scene where the carcasses of the Nile Perch are transported to the leftovers factory for the locals to separate and burn with acid after which they eat the remaining flesh this is a very disturbing roll of events. I feel this scene brings home to the viewers what is fundamentally wrong with the whole chain where the locals are starving after the Western World has taken the valuable flesh. I think that this scene would highlight to the pupils the true extent of the exploitation.
The scene from Hotel Rwanda which is the most impacting and graphic is where Paul and his driver discover a road, as they return from gathering supplies in the dead of night, which is littered with corpses as far as the eye can see. This scene puts a scale on the death toll; this is just one road of many. This scene I feel would act as a reminder to the pupils of the underlying theme of the genocide in Rwanda.

Are these texts suitable for teenagers?
Darwin’s Nightmare I feel is suitable for teenagers to watch but I would have questions about showing it without parental consent. As an adult I found the content extremely difficult to watch, the issues it dealt with, especially the starvation of young children and the appalling living conditions haunted me for numerous days after viewing. If this documentary was shown in class I think that appropriate debriefing sessions would be required to deal with issues arising from the text. Although the issues dealt with within the text are ones which I feel pupils need to be aware of, it’s the delivery of this information I would have reservations about.
Hotel Rwanda is set out so that the difficult and graphic topic of the mass murder of a million people is suitable for a teenage audience to view this noteworthy material and not leave them vacating their seats at the sight of death via wielding machetes. The introduction of heroism, humour and romance break the tension and the difficult nature of the movie in order to make it more familiar and conform to modern cinematography for the audience of which category the pupils fall into. Hotel Rwanda is an R-13 movie so it was filmed with a teenage audience in mind so that the issues dealt with would reach a wide audience.

Is the critical or soft approach to development education more suitable?
As a teacher I feel that whilst the critical approach would ideally be the most suitable when introducing issues of development education to teenagers it is my opionion because our pupils live in a dramatized world the messages held within a critical piece like Darwin’s Nightmare would be lost on them. In a classroom environment from my experience I know that my pupils would become disengaged after a short period of time if I showed them Darwin’s Nightmare because, as I stated before it is a style that they are unfamiliar with. I feel that Hotel Rwanda whilst it takes a softer approach it still informs the audience of the genocide in Rwanda and its other elements of heroism, suspense and love that would keep the pupils interested for the duration.

One cannot deny the value of Darwin’s Nightmare or Hotel Rwanda as appropriate media text for delivering development education in Irish classrooms, but I feel the latter, Hotel Rwanda, would engage pupils on a deeper level.
Our pupils are disinterested in learning fact and more interested in being entertained, to this note with media texts such as Hotel Rwanda it is my opinion that we can combine entertainment with learning and deepen our pupils understanding of development issues for the betterment of all.

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