Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Directed by Terry George

Artistic & Entertainment Value: * * * *

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In 1994, Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a Hutu, is living with his wife, Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), a Tutsi, in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, while working as the manager of a hotel. When Hutu militants begin murdering thousands of Tutsis, Paul provides shelter to an increasing number of persons of that ethnic group in his hotel, despite the ever worsening situation in his country and the indifference of the rest of the world.

Terry George's Hotel Rwanda is an always affecting, often horrific film that, as grim as it is, somehow manages to present the viewer with an awareness of human dignity, of the capacity certain persons have for decency.


For one thing, the director's depiction of his protagonist is consistently skilfully done. Rusesabagina appears as a real human being who, though he is himself imperfect, is nonetheless ultimately willing to do what he must in order to do what is right. George thus reveals both the dangers the character faces and his reactions to these. The director's portrayals of how Rusesabagina showers favors upon his wealthy guests to win their goodwill and how he calls upon them when he needs their help to survive the troubles that fall upon Rwanda when the military and Hutu militiamen begin slaughtering Tutsis are especially nicely done. In fact, all of the character's struggles and efforts are at once captivating and revealing of his nature.

What is more, while Hotel Rwanda certainly arouses in the viewer an awareness of man's cruelty and his ability to ignore the sufferings of others, it also displays his capacity for decency, for coming to the aid of his fellows. In numerous disturbing sequences, George exposes shocking acts of murder and the ways men give in to mindless fanaticism, but these deeds, however depressing they may be, still, in the end, by making clear the risks the hero is taking in order to keep his countrymen alive, help to emphasize that man's bravery and essential goodness.

There are, admittedly, occasions when the director does present some of the players in his drama as caricatures, but given the grotesque situation he was depicting, it would have been very difficult for him not to have done so. It is the very rare artist who is able to bring out the subtleties of persons who are engaged in committing atrocities.

Finally, I should note that the performances of virtually all of the actors, and that of Don Cheadle in particular, are accomplished and appealing.

Though it is far from perfect, Hotel Rwanda is an affecting, memorable film.

Review by Keith Allen

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