FBMR - Hotel Rwanda
Film-Buff Movie Reviews

HOTEL RWANDA (2004) ***1/2

The world can be a very, very ugly place. Humans can be very, very ugly beings. It sometimes makes me ashamed to be human. Yet amid all the ugliness, there are individuals who stand out as good people. Some can even be called heroes. This film is about one such hero, Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) and his fight to protect those around him.

The film medium can serve to do many different things. It can be a form of escapism. It can be mindless brain-candy. It can scare you. It can be art. It can promote awareness. It is the latter that HOTEL RWANDA does. This film recounts the unspeakable events that followed the 1994 assassination of Rwandan President MystŤre Falcon. The country was divided by ancient tribal lines: the Tutsi representing a traditional aristocratic minority, which had dominated the more populous Hutu. In the 20th Century, most of the Tutsi and Hutu were integrated, intermarrying and speaking the same language. But some of the more militant and radical member of each group would stir their people up with negative propaganda. And when the Hutu militia, in the wake of the presidentís assassination, began the genocide killing of the Tutsi people, young and old, men and women, many sought refuge. One such place was the Belgian-owned Hotel des Mille Collines, managed by Paul Rusesabagina. He was an ordinary man, who showed extraordinary courage, in a very dangerous time. It was his struggle to keep these refugees, and his own family safe that the film focuses on.

Don Cheadle was fantastic in this film. He portrayed Rusesabagina with grace, dignity, strength, and vulnerability. He is my Oscar hopeful among this yearís nominated actors. This film is also peppered with a number of wonderful supporting roles as well. Nick Nolte plays a head-strong Canadian UN Colonel who is often frustrated by the UN restrictions in place. Sophie Okonedo plays Paulís wife, Tatiana. She is strong and delivers a very emotionally stirring performance. Joaquin Phoenix is a press cameraman who is conflicted by what he is witnessing. Phoenix is always good in just about everything he does.

This is a tough film to watch, but extremely well done. It is very powerful and gripping. Some scenes are quite brutal and disturbing, but arenít overly grotesque or graphic. Sometimes it is more effective that way. It is astounding what people can do, have done, and probably still will do to each other; that there is so much hatred in the world. It makes me think sometimes that peace is truly out of reach. And this film gave me my doubts. But there was a glimmer of hope, that behind that dark cloud of hate there are people who can make a difference, even if it is only a small one. To those who Paul Rusesabagina helped save, it means the world.