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Hotel Rwanda (2004) - R

Based on a true story, HOTEL RWANDA tells of the atrocious Rwandan genocide wars that occurred a decade ago. But despite its modern day occurrence and its massive death toll; over one million people slaughtered in just three month, the nightmares in Rwanda received little to no attention from the world's media. One courageous man, determined to expose the atrocities of the country and defy the authorities, decides to provide shelter for refugees in his self-managed hotel. This is a spell-binding tale, of courage and humanity that will leave you speechless.

The cast includes: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Desmond Dube, Xolani Mali, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Rosie Moteone, Neil McCarthy, Tony Kgoroge, and Nick Nolte.

Directed by: Terry George.

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Genre: Drama, History, War.

Tagline: Love is a powerful thing…

Rated: R for violence, disturbing images, and brief, strong language.

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HOTEL RWANDA is a poignantly emotional and courageous film about the civil war/genocide that occurred in Rwanda nearly a decade ago between the Tootsie and Ihuitu peoples. Despite the informed UN and the nearly one million deaths resulting from machete and other violent acts of slaughter, the world seemed to pay no attention to the dire situation for the Tootsies of Rwanda.

HOTEL RWANDA is based on the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, Ihuitu husband of his Tootsie wife Tatiana Rusesabagina, and father to his mixed children Elys, Diane, and Roger. The film begins at the eve of the civil war's emergence, with the audience getting a brief glimpse of the peaceful life of the Rusesabagina family, supported by Paul's job at a four-star hotel.

Immediately Paul is exposed to the flared tempers of his native Ihuitu peoples who have had a long-stemmed hatred for the Tootsie clan, descendants of the initial Rwandan authority-line chosen by the Belgians. Apparently the Belgian's selective process for their "ideal Rwandan" race was to choose Rwandan’s based on physical attributes: skin tone, nose shape/size, etc. Once distinguished, the Belgians separated the Rwandan's into two tribes, the Tootsies and the Ihuitus, with the Tootsies being the more revered of the two. As history would have it, the episode didn't sit well with the insulted Ihuitus and in the early 90's they launched a massive guerilla protest against the Tootsies.

With the President of Rwanda slain (an Ihuitu descendant), the ever-building tension gives way to chaos as Ihuitus accuse Tootsie radicals of his murder, and thus justify their expedient genocide. Town by town, the Ihuitus wipe out every Tootsie, or Tootsie affiliated Rwandan. As Paul tries to hide his family from the radicals, his desperate Tootsie neighbors turn to him for help.

With most of the Tootsie servants having abandoned the hotel, Paul is left in charge, to oversee the hotel and attend to the guests, both tourists and refugees alike. But soon the hotel is swarming with thousands of refugees hiding in crowded rooms to escape slaughter. Meanwhile streets are lined with thousands of brutally slain corpses, footage that journalist Jack Daglish is desperately trying to call attention to… to no avail. UN forces, informed and present during the slaughters, remain passive and non-violent, allowing Ihuitu forces to penetrate deeper into the Rwandan cities, and thus, closer to Paul's hotel.

What ensues is a series of daredevil attempts to retrieve more refugees and provisions, which constantly endangers Paul's life. More and more Rwandans die as more and more UN soldiers withdraw support. A brief glimpse of hope is quickly smashed as an influx of American soldiers leave as quickly as they came with only the arms of American tourists in their hands. Desperately Paul fights time and death to keep his family, and the hundreds of refugee families hiding in his hotel, safe. But will time run out before help reaches the hotel?

HOTEL RWANDA is emotionally evoking. It plays with the psychological ups and downs of one of history's most harrowing moments. Moreover, the film makes you embarrassed to admit that your own country was not wholly ignorant to the acts of malice threatening these peoples’ lives. As the story unfolds a radical racism is exposed in which one learns of the dramatically egocentric ideologies that prevented other countries from helping the Rwandan’s they felt to be beneath their hand of compassion. If anything the intense dichotomy between anger for ignorant people's pride and terror for a tormented people is so intense throughout the movie that one undergoes every possible emotion throughout the film. It is the delicate thread of anger/despair that keeps “Hotel Rwanda” on the tasteful side of presenting such disturbing material.

Though "best scenes" seems an uncouthly inappropriate term for a film like this, but by far some of the more compelling scenes are those of the refugees' experiences inside the hotel. It is amazing to think that a man like Paul Rusesabagina and the likes of his people found the courage to survive the political upheavals of their time. With death lurking around every possible corner, it is truly remarkable to witness a man so determined to help everyone he can, avoid a fatal end. Truly the world could use more people like Paul Rusesabagina.

Main Characters:

Don Cheadle plays Paul Rusesabagina, the man with a heart of gold and the courage of a lion who offers his hotel as a place of refuge for the exiled refugees of Rwanda.

Sophie Okonedo plays Tatiana Rusesabagina, Paul's wife and support system throughout the political travesty.

Nick Nolte plays Colonel Oliver, the conflicted UN colonel who strives to save face as his authorities stand by and watch the Rwandan slaughter.

Tony Kgoroge plays Gregoire, the indolent Ihuitu whose racist ways continually rat out the refugees under Paul’s care.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Jack Daglish, a radical American journalist whose efforts to expose the Rwandan genocide are ultimately, in vain.