Starting in 1993 and ending in 1994 there was a serious conflict in Rwanda, Africa. After the Dutch left Rwanda, they also left behind two social classes of their own creation. They divided the Rwandans into the Tutsis and Hutus. The Tutsis were taller, thinner and had smaller noses. The Dutch made them their assistants in government and law enforcement, making the Hutus the lower-class citizens. After the Dutch left, however, the Hutus were in charge and were seeking revenge on the Tutsis. To make this even more complicated, for the most part the Hutus and the Tutsis looked exactly alike. The only real way of knowing the difference for sure was looking at their identification cards. The Hutus and the Tutsis also married each other, making it even more difficult for the Hutus to execute their revenge. But that did not stop them.
Hotel Rwanda tells the story of a hero who rose up amidst the terror, chaos, and hate around him. As the trailer says, “When the world closed its eyes, he opened his arms and created a place where hope could survive.” Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheldle, Oceans Twelve) is the house manager of the Hotel Des Mille Colline, a place that is an “oasis in the desert” for its wealthy guests. After the President of Rwanda is assassinated by Hutu rebels the United Nations and military guests of the hotel are called home, leaving Paul with a hotel full of refugees, including his wife and children, and no means of protecting them. They have to face the slaughter that eventually takes the lives of a million Tutsis. Paul, a Hutu who could have escaped, saves over 1200 Tutsis by forcing them to stick together at the hotel. When the oasis of the hotel is destroyed, Paul becomes the oasis and creates the calm needed to survive in the face of hatred, abandonment, and a staff who is beginning to rebel too.
Hotel Rwanda is the best movie I have seen all year. I cried from fear one minute and from joy not long after. It is a powerful film that takes your emotions in hand and does not go easy on them. The Academy should be ashamed of themselves for overlooking this film for a Best Picture nomination.
Don Chedle did get the Best Actor nomination and I sincerely hope that he wins. His character is the focal point of this film and it is not an easy part. Paul stays calm in the face of terror all around him and his actions are subtly brave and not altogether unselfish. Playing Paul would not be an easy task, but Chedle does a brilliant job.
The film was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay. I think this is a deserved honor. The story is compelling and painful. I did not notice that two hours had passed because I was so concerned the whole time. The story pulls you in. Like it or not, you spend two hours in the heat of the Rwandan conflict.
Hotel Rwanda is Africa’s Schindler’s List. It tells the story of unbelievable acts of inhumanity in a manner that the viewer will never forget. This is a film that anyone looking to see a great movie should not miss.
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