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Hotel Rwanda

July 2, 2008


Oskar Schindler- Playboy, profiteer, industrialist, wheeler dealer. A man who used his contacts in the Nazi circle to save the lives of 1300 Jews during the Holocaust in the city of Krakow, Poland.

Paul Russesabagina– A hotel manager, owner of a luxury 4 star hotel in the African country ofRwanda. Yet he would be the savior of around 1268 Tutsis and moderate Hutus from being slaughtered in the brutal civil war.

Oskar Schindler and Paul Russesabagina, Nazi Occupied Poland in the 1930’s and Rwanda in 1994, the Nazis and the Hutus, the Jews and the Tutsis.


Different men, different nations, different eras in history, but only the names change. But things remain the same. Men of one race indulging in genocide of men of another race, inherently believing they are superior. And yet in the midst of such madness are people like Schindler and Paul, who still believe in humanity.

In 1994 a civil war broke out in the landlocked African nation of Rwanda. Ethnically divided into two tribes, the Hutus and the Tutsis, with the Hutus being in majority. In April 1994, the Hutu PresidentJuvenal Habyarimana, was assasinated when his plane was shot down while landing. The Hutu extremists, who had all along been against his efforts to make a deal with the Tutsi dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front, RPF, immediately took advantage of this, and launched a hate campaign against the Tutsi population. Over the next 100 days from Apr to mid July, a genocide was launched against the Tutsis and even moderate Hutus, by the Interwhame, a Hutu extremist organization. Over 500,000 people would be killed in one of the most shameful massacres.


But during such dark times, there emerge unlikely heroes. And one such hero was Paul Russesabagina( Don Cheadle) on whose story the 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda was based. Paul is a Hutu, but his wife Tatiana( Sophie Okendo) is a Tutsi. This makes Paul a traitor in the eyes of the Hutu, including George Rutaganda, his hotel’s supplier, who tries to brainwash Paul into joining theInterwhame.

As the civil war breaks out, and the Hutu extremists indulge in wanton genocide, Paul barters with a high ranking Govt official and brings some of his friends and neighbours to the safety of his hotel.More and more refugees now come into the hotel, fleeing from the war. The UN Peacekeeping forces led by Col Oliver( Nick Nolte) are totally ineffectual, though Oliver is understanding and sympathetic, he can do nothing.

As he tells him “We’re here as peace keepers, not peace makers”. The UN forces meanwhile evacuate all the foreigners staying in the hotel, leaving the Rwandans at the mercy of the local warlords. Inspite of certain peoplle like Jack Daglish( Joaquin Phoenix) who totally emphathize, with Paul, they can do nothing, as the world powers look the other ways.

As Jack tells to Paul ” I think if people see this footage, they’ll say Oh, my God, that’s horrible. And then they’ll go on eating their dinners.”. Watch the rest of this movie to see how Paul has to face a lonely battle to save the refugees in his Hotel, and also keep away the Hutu thugs at bay.

If there is one reason i would reccomend any one to watch this movie, it is because it exposes the reality of Africa as is. Honestly speaking i am not sure how many even know that there is a country called Rwanda and how many would even be able to locate it on a map. Hotel Rwanda is a slap on our faces, on our smug consciences. It is not just the Hutus, it is the major world powers who are equally culpable. Belgium and France infact actively aided and abetted the rebels, so much for their liberal posturings. The UN did nothing to intervene, and the few UN forces there had to fight a hard battle against the Hutus.

One of the most hard hitting scenes in the movie is when the foreigners leave the hotel, and the Rwandan people beg them to somehow take them away from there. One especially moving scene is when a Tutsi woman begs Jack Daglish to take her away, and he helpless unable to do anything, gives her some money. She thrusts it back into his hands, pleading with him, to take her away. Also when a missionary organization people are separated from the orphans.

Another wonderful scene is when Paul attempts to blackmail the Hutu General Augustin Bizimungu(Fana Mokoena) , with threats of being tried as a war criminal, as a last ditch attempt to save the refugees. In a moment of desperation, in fact Paul tells him
“What- what are you going to do… shoot me? Shoot me. Please shoot me. It would be a blessing. I would pay you to shoot my family. You can not hurt me. ”

But if there is one line that sums up the entire movie, it is when the Tutsi orphan is killed by the Hutus, and his dying words, just prick your conscience
” Please don’t let them kill me. I… I promise I won’t be Tutsi anymore.”

The movie is also helped by some excellent performances from Nick Nolte as the UN chief, Joaquin Phoenix as the journalist and Sophie Okendo as Tatiana.

But nothing to beat Don Cheadle, as Paul Russesabagina, in a performance that is beyond superlatives. Be it as a happy family man, a person caring for refugees, or a man driving to desperation, Cheadle does not act, he lives the role. This has to be one of the greatest performances of all time. Especially in the scene where he tries to bargain with the Hutu colonel and then breaks down in desperation, he makes you feel every moment with him. It is said he missed a much deserved Oscar for this.

So my recommendation, just pick up the DVD and watch this movie. Trust me this is a kind of movie, that should neve be missed.

  1. Nice review.What made the African pleading with Phoenix hit me was that he was sleeping with her (when Paul tells him about Hutus and Tutsis, he asks two women about their type, and invites one to his room; she's the one we see).

  2. Wonderful review, Ratnakar. Truly a special performance, in a career filled with them, by Don Cheadle.

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