Review/Rec: Hotel Rwanda (film)

Posted: May 7, 2009 in Movie Reviews, War

hotel-rwandaHotel Rwanda (2004) is an absolutely excellent film. Truly, deeply excellent. Moving and hard to stomach and at the same time a joy to watch for its fantastic acting. It is the true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager of a luxury top class hotel, who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during the genocide in 1994 in Rwanda.

Don Cheadle plays Paul and he gives an outstanding performance with so many nuances, you are drawn into his inner strength and emotions, and while you know what happens all along, since the genocide in Rwanda is a horrible historical fact and anyone who doesn’t know about this must be a brainless something who has lived under a rock.

Nick Nolte plays the only fictional character in the film, Col Oliver, who is modelled on Lt Gen Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian commanding officer of the UN Peacekeeping mission in that country who attempted to interfere with the Rwandan Genocide despite his superiors’ indifference to the atrocity. Sadly, Lt Gen Dallaire suffered severe PTSD from the horrors he witnessed. He – and anyone else who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – has my fullest sympathy.

And to think that in 1994 – in an era of mass communication, albeit before the internet – but with news round the clock, the Rwandan genocide went unnoticed. I don’t want to be cynical on my blog, but would that have happened to a more “valuable” country to the West? In 100 days, give and take, the estimate is that around 800.000 – 1.000.000 million people were killed. That would be 20% of the population.

The genocide had its roots in the Hutu-Tutsi ethnic divide and related sporadic violence, which had resulted in a large number of Tutsi refugees in the nations around Rwanda by 1990. In that year, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel group composed mostly of Tutsi refugees, invaded. The Rwandan Civil War, fought between the Hutu regime, with support from Francophone nations of Africa and France itself, and the RPF, with support from Uganda, vastly increased the ethnic tensions in the country and led to the rise of Hutu Power, an ideology that stressed that the Tutsi intended to enslave Hutus and thus must be resisted at all costs.

The assassination of Habyarimana in April 1994 was the proximate cause of the mass killings of Tutsis and pro-peace Hutus. It was carried out primarily by two Hutu militias associated with political parties: the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi. The genocide was directed by a Hutu Power group known as the Akazu. The killing also marked the end of the peace agreement meant to end the war and the Tutsi RPF restarted their offensive, eventually defeating the army and seizing control of the country.

This film is very much worth seeing, if you haven’t watched it yet. A masterpiece. (UK): Hotel Rwanda (US): Hotel Rwanda

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