TripAdvisor - Rwanda
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Odds are most readers couldn't pick out Rwanda on a map
of Africa lacking country labels. Odds are even greater you have little or no knowledge of
the horrific events that transpired there in 1994.
Once part of the German colonial holdings in central Africa, Rwanda became part of a Belgian-governed protectorate after World War I. Both the Belgians and the Germans before them conferred favored status on the minority (14%) Tutsi people, in effect creating a caste system that left the majority Hutu people powerless.
At various times in the 1960's and thereafter, the Hutus rebelled against the ruling Tutsis, many of whom fled out of the country, many of whom were massacred. Hutus gained control of the government and the military. In 1990, Tutsi exile forces invaded Rwanda from Uganda. After a cease-fire agreement, President Habyarimana stalled in the formation of the promised power-sharing government. In April, 1994, the President's plane was shot down and he was killed. The massacres began in earnest. The Rwandan army went from house to house slaughtering Tutsis. Belgian residents, too, were killed. U.N. peacekeeping forces stood by, under orders not to intervene.
Genocide. A million people annihilated as the rest of the world stood by, doing nothing to stop the atrocities.
Hotel Rwanda tells the story of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a Hutu professional who managed a luxury hotel in Kigali, the capital city. Married to Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), a Tutsi, and the father of two children, Paul gets caught up in the turmoil of the escalating massacres. Using diplomacy, bribes and outstanding favors, he manages to shelter some 1,200 people at the hotel, including a large group of young children from a Red Cross orphanage.
Cheadle (The United States of Leland, Things Behind the Sun) and Okonedo (Dirty Pretty Things) both give accomplished performances, emotions shifting with events among hope, fear, terror and despair. Writer/director Terry George, perhaps best known for his 1993 screenplay, In the Name of the Father, invests Hotel Rwanda with suspense and strong human drama by centering the film on the story of Rusesabagina and his family. By foregrounding their personal experience against the unfolding events of the day, he personalizes the history and gives it an immediacy that documentary treatment would be hard-pressed to match.
Historians may quibble over some glossing of the details, but George successfully negotiates the broad sweep of the history and conveys the horror and anguish of anarchy and massacre while keeping the violence off screen or depicted at a distance. That's no small achievement. If Hotel Rwanda succeeds in reminding moviegoers that yet another genocide is happening right now in Africa, it will have served an important purpose. While the world turns its back once again, at least two million people have been killed in the Sudan and some five million Sudanese have fled into exile as the slaughter there continues.
- Arthur Lazere