‘Hotel Rwanda’: See it now, never forget it
Eleven years ago, while “Schindler’s List” was racking up more than $100 million in domestic box office and being showered — deservedly so — with industry awards (including the Oscar for Best Picture), a modern-day holocaust was about to be unleashed in far off Sub-Saharan Africa.
Don’t be ashamed if you are unfamiliar with the country of Rwanda, or its location west of Tanzania and south of Uganda. You are not alone. Most of us who live in the West are completely unaware of the genocide that left nearly a million Tutsis slaughtered.
One of the important objectives of the film “Hotel Rwanda” is to awaken the Western world to the plight of the oppressed members of the Tutsi tribes at the hands of the ruling Hutu and the moving story of a modern-day Schindler in the person of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle).
At the time, Rusesabagina was the popular manager of the five-star Hotel Milles Collines in the capital city of Kigali. We quickly learn why he is a success at what he does.
Highly devoted to his hotel patrons, Rusesabagina has learned how to accommodate both guests and suppliers by bartering for single malt Scotch, pricey Cohiba cigars and the like by greasing the palms of Hutu military types in order to satisfy the needs of his clients.
He’s concerned with the simmering conflict between those of his Hutu ancestry and the pastoral Tutsis (from whom his wife is descended), but when things get tense he’s torn between his responsibilities as a dedicated employee, a loyal family man, and an esteemed community leader.
Director Terry George has, without the aid of much back story or historical explanation, taken an utterly devastating circumstance and made it real and palpably personal. But its brutality is not in the graphic detail. In fact, the film’s restraint is remarkable given the nature of the slaughter involved. (The film is rated PG-13.) The power the film yields stems from superb performances and a crescendo of intensity that builds toward its unpredictable conclusion.
In this case, the audience’s ignorance is bliss. We really don’t know if Rusesabagina’s attempts to save his family, himself or more than 1200 Tutsis he harbors at the hotel for refuge during the massacre will be successful.
Simply put, this is a must-see film. It deserved a nomination for Best Picture and though he won’t win, Don Cheadle is in no way outclassed by his better-known peers in the Best Actor category. If there was a more gripping and authentic performance by an actor last year, I didn’t see it. Don’t you miss this one.
Rated PG-13 for violence.