Anthony's Film Review
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
A saddening yet uplifting story of love and kindness amidst hate and violence...
Hotel Rwanda tells the true story of the Rwanda genocide in 1994 where the Hutu militia hunted down and slaughtered a million people of the Tutsi tribe. The reason for the Hutus' hatred of the Tutsis is mentioned briefly in the film. Under Belgian rule, Rwanda was in control mostly by the Tutsis, and the Hutus have despised them for a long time. In 1994, the Hutus got their chance to take control themselves as news of Tutsi rebels assassinating the President of Rwanda is announced. But even without this historical context mentioned, there is still the same question on the everyone's mind: is there any sense in killing a million people because they are of a different tribe or race?
The focus of the film is Paul Rusesabagina, a manager of the luxurious Hotel Des Milles Collines. The first scenes of the film show this spot as a true vacation spot. But one night, Paul comes home to find his family plus many other people hiding in a single dark room in his house. The Hutus are right outside beating and arresting any Tutsis they could find. This leads up to a series of other incidents between the two tribes that ultimately lead the Tutsi refugees to Paul's hotel. His family is the first people he protects in the hotel, and the Tutsis keep pouring through its doors. The hotel quickly fills up, and Paul isn't sure what to do with the Tutsis that hope to find shelter there.
Besides the Hutus' furious hatred for the Tutsis, fueled by Hutu propaganda on the radio, there is also the unwillingness of the West to help calm the crisis. It is true the United Nations recognized the genocide taking place, but there were more words and less action. Colonel Oliver, a United Nations soldier sent in to act as a peacekeeper, openly admits to Paul at one point his disdain for black people. And to the disappointment of Paul and the refugees, help is sent in to Rwanda only to assist tourists and foreigners out of the country. In other words, the natives were left behind to suffer.
The situation continues to get worse as the Hutus reach the hotel. Only through bribery with liquor and money can Paul keep the militia at bay in order to save the refugees. He also uses his tribal affiliation to his advantage to a certain extent. Paul himself is Hutu, though his wife is a Tutsi. He also keeps the refugees happy by literally continuing his job as a hotel manager, making sure the hotel is running as it always had before. He is not someone who stops and surrenders. In fact, in one scene, he urges the refugees to call anyone they know and beg for help.
The death toll from the genocide is huge, and though the number of people Paul saved from the massacre (1,268) is a small portion, the deed in itself is very heroic and brave. The film works especially well with the performances of Don Cheadle as Paul and Nick Nolte as Colonel Oliver. The rest of the cast is just as brilliant. Hotel Rwanda is not just a story of the triumph of good and humanity in the face of atrocity, but also an informative tale about a terrible event most of the world has ignored. It is one of the best drama films of 2004 and one that is truly unforgettable.
For more information about Hotel Rwanda, visit the Internet Movie Database.