Hotel Rwanda


Directed by: Terry George
Written by:Terry George, Keir Pearson
Starring: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix, Desmond Dube
Released: February 24, 2005
Grade: A

If it doesn’t involve us, we have a knack for turning a blind eye.  People are killed every day as a result of conflict, war, terrorism and other basic human rights violations.  The troubles of the Middle East and Africa will often appear as a part of 20 second blurb late in any news telecast or deep on page 32 in any newspaper, if at all.  How fickle the media is and how quickly they tire of any news story.

This isn’t my usual rant on a biased media.  I bring this up to highlight how quickly we forget so many of our recent tragedies.  We all remember the events of September 11, 2001 when 2,752 people lost their lives.  But do you remember what happened in the African country of Rwanda in 1994?  An estimated 937,000 people were killed in just 100 days in a fierce “ethnic cleansing” war between the Tutsis and the Hutus.

I remember very little of the event and I suggest many people won’t recall it at all.  How sad it is that we don’t remember.  Thankfully, the medium of film is one way that the events of the past can be brought back into the spotlight.  Director Terry George has done that with Hotel Rwanda

Paul Rusesabagina (Cheadle) was a Hutu who managed a posh hotel, the Des Milles Collines, in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.  The hotel was a popular destination for foreign tourists and Paul took pride in the service provided.  On April 6, 1994, Paul’s life would be changed forever.  The Rwandan president’s plane was shot down and the Hutu’s began a violent war to exterminate all Tutsis from the country.

Paul may have been on the right side but he wanted nothing to do with this insane war.  As the English and other foreigners fled the hotel, Paul let in as many Tutsis as possible to provide refuge and to keep them safe from the advancing Hutus.  A small team of U.N. peacekeepers were sent in to help get the foreign tourists out of the country.  That unfortunately, was it.  No one was coming to assist the Tutsis.  No one around the world gave a damn.

There are always tales of heroism in any war and this is Paul’s tale.  He constantly put his life at risk to protect the many Tutsis staying at the hotel.  It’s inspiring stuff and you can see the film for yourself to discover what becomes of them.  There are moments of reflection and sadness but also moments of uplifting joy.  Everyone who sees Hotel Rwanda will take something away.

The stars of the film are Don Cheadle (as Paul) and Sophie Okonedo (as Paul’s wife, Tatiana).  This may be a small, low-budget drama but it isn’t going unnoticed.  Both Cheadle and Okonedo earned Academy Award nominations and writers Terry George and Keir Pearson received a nomination for their great screenplay.  I’ve always liked Cheadle as an actor and I’m glad he got the part over other more favoured actors (such as Denzel Washington).  He makes the movie.

Engrossing from the opening credits to the final curtain, Hotel Rwanda ranks as one of the finer films of 2005.  If only there were more films like it.