Hotel Rwanda


Feb. 3, 2005 – In 1994, most of the world looked the other way as the Rwandan genocide took place and a million members of the Tutsi tribe were killed by fellow Rwandan Hutus. "Hotel Rwanda" tells the story of how 1,268 of those lives were saved by a hotelkeeper, an otherwise ordinary man.
The movie isn't about the massacre itself; it is the true story of how Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) saved these lives.
Rusesabagina is the consummate hotel manager. He has been trained in Belgium and runs the four-star Hotel Des Milles Collines in the capital city of Kigali very well. Roger Ebert says Rusesabagina, a Hutu, married to a Tutsi named Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), is "a man of quiet, steady competence in a time of chaos. This is not the kind of man the camera silhouettes against mountaintops, but the kind of man who knows how things work in the real world, who uses his skills of bribery, flattery, apology and deception to save these lives who have come into his care."
David Denby, New Yorker movie critic, says director Terry George, who also co-wrote the script with Keir Pearson, has put together a large-scale production about the life of a "brave and wily man who never made a speech or indulged an instant of stiff-backed righteousnes."
The fascination of the movie, Denby says, "lies in watching this unspectacular, mild-tempered fellow outwit some of the worst thugs and profiteers who ever managed to deliver their own country into disaster."
Denby says the film, "turns into a triumph for Don Cheadle, who never steps outside the character for emotional grandstanding or easy moralism."
Ebert agrees. "Cheadle holds his performance resolutely at the human level. His character intuitively understands that only by continuing to act as a hotel manager can he achieve anything. His hotel is hardly functioning, the economy has broken down, the country is ruled by anarchy, but he puts on his suit and tie every morning and fakes business as usual — even on a day he is so frightened, he cannot tie his tie."
Jack Wilmington, in the Chicago Tribune, says "It's Cheadle who makes the movie really special, delivering a memorable and utterly convincing portrayal of a truly good man. Never overstating, always careful and lucid, Cheadle puts us securely into each scene.
There is a United Nations presence in Rwanda, represented by Col. Oliver (Nick Nolte). He sees what is happening, informs his superiors, asks for help and intervention, and is ignored. Rusesabagina informs the corporate headquarters in Brussels of the growing tragedy, but the hotel in Kigali is not the chain's greatest concern.
The story is mostly told from Rusesabgina's point of view with occasional glimpses from TV reporter Jack Daglish ( Joaquin Phoenix).
The film cannot help but draw comparisons to Spielberg's masterpiece, "Schindler's List." Most critics say that "Hotel Rwanda," while not on that scale, holds its own.
Stepping out of his role in the film, in real life Cheadle is doing something about a situation going on today.
Cheadle, a 2005 Oscar nominee, did something on his own this week about another genocide which is going on today. The Chicago Tribune (Feb. 2) says Cheadle gathered with members of Congress in Washington in a crowded House hearing room and, before a barrage of TV cameras, he talked about his recent fact-finding mission to the Dafur region of Sudan.
"And now we need to do something," Cheadle said, calling today's "tsunamis of violence" in Sudan a "sad replay of Rwanda." He asked the Washington officials, "Now, what are we going to do about it?"
The film is two hours long, and rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief strong language. It starts Thursday at Sunny Isle Theaters.


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