By Jason Dean
What Hotel Rwanda should do is bring attention to the genocide that happened in Rwanda as Hutu militia and extremists attacked the Tutsis as well as other Hutus thought to be sympathetic to the Tutsis. The film also gives Don Cheadle the leading role worthy of his talent and should make him a star. However, the cynic in me fears that neither of these will happen, as the film may fail to find the widespread audience that it deserves. This would be a shame. Hotel Rwanda is not only a message film, but also a truly gripping piece of drama.
In 1994, the Western countries chose to turn their backs on the massacre that was occurring in Rwanda, writing it off as a civil war that was a local government problem. The West turned their collective backs on more than just a political crisis, as the bloodletting that took place is heart wrenching. Literally hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were killed, with many being hacked to death.
In order to tell this story, the filmmakers behind Hotel Rwanda have focused on the story of Paul Rusesabagina, who is a hotel manager at four star resort. Paul is shown to be a man who knows everybody, which helps him in his job duties as his connections allow him access to the best goods. Paul also works the people aspect of things and is able to count among his friends and frequent visitor to the hotel's lounges and bars the leader of the UN Peacekeeping force and a General of the Rwandan military.
As the hostilities break out, Paul takes up residence at the hotel in an effort to protect his own family. Unable to turn away his neighbors, he also offers shelter for others. Initially, life goes about in a business-as-usual manner, or at least as much as Paul can maintain in the face of an out-and-out civil war being waged. Out of a general concern for his fellow man, Paul eventually shelters more and more refugees who have nowhere else to turn.
Don Cheadle owns the film and delivers a tremendous performance. The surrounding roles are also expertly portrayed. Hotel Rwanda manages to deliver its message and touch upon the horrors of the situation without being over-the-top. The drama and the suspense film were surprising. Unlike many movies that are based on a true story, knowing the ultimate outcome does not strip Hotel Rwanda of the dramatic impact of the scenes leading up to the conclusion. Of course, the general American ignorance of the story and background information could have a lot to do with the film's suspenseful nature.
Hotel Rwanda will not see general release until late this year, but if you have the chance to see it, the film should be considered a must-see for the performances, the drama and the coverage given to another black mark in human history.