Hotel Rwanda (2004) Poster


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Shaming and compelling
larajane19 December 2004
Anything I say in this review is probably redundant, because there isn't a single negative review in all the comments so far here, and I agree wholeheartedly with what has been said by other reviewers.

Nevertheless Hotel Rwanda is that rare kind of movie experience that doesn't easily relinquish its hold on the audience just because the credits have rolled. Watching with a friend, after ten minutes we had to pause the film because we decided we would be better served if we were more informed about what the basic facts of the conflict in Rwanda were. So to my shame, we had to read on the internet about what really happened, before we could continue. I say shame because we should have known, both of us were of an age when it happened to have taken more of an interest in world politics.

The film is beautifully understated, eschewing sentimentality in favour of raw emotion and letting the story tell itself. The acting was flawless - Don Cheadle's breathtaking performance being a particular standout - and the direction didn't falter, despite all the potential pitfalls of dramatising a recent and horrific conflict. The scenes which were hardest to watch in terms of tension and violence were often suffused with humour and hope.

It's difficult sometimes to separate the significance of the true story, from the artistry of the product, and often I get impatient with 'worthy' movies scoring big at Oscar time because it seems as though important stories ought to be rewarded, whether or not they make good films. However, I can't recall being so profoundly moved by a film since I saw The Grey Zone, and I hope Hotel Rwanda gets all the plaudits it deserves.
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so powerful and amazing
Julia-Gefter9 December 2004
I have never been so touched by a movie. It was the hardest movie I have ever sat through but also the best. it's so easy to ignore human rights abuses if they are not happening to you or your family, but just because you ignore it, they are still happening. i hope this movie receives the praise it deserves. i am frustrated because nothing i can type can represent how powerful this movie is or how much it moved me. i can't comment on the amazing acting or cinematography or directing because the movie transported me. i did not think about the making of the movie but rather sat shocked and horrified and nauseated and inspired. there was the red cross agent. there were heroes and while human nature perverts and the thin veil of culture unravels, there is still good. i have to look at the good of the heroes in the movie and of the people that wrote the movie, and realize that going to the movies doesn't have to be about escapism. it can be about reality. this is a must-see, not because it will make you laugh but because it will make you think and feel.
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a great one
wl3234 January 2005
I have no doubt that this is the only movie for the past year that can get me totally, if not 101%, emotionally involved. For other movies, I might be interacting with the story a lot , say associating my personal experiences with the characters, making judgment on them, criticizing the development of the story, ways of expression, the cinematography, acting, etc. BUT, Hotel Rwanda simply took me over as I was watching it. My emotion was going along with Paul ( Don Cheadle) all the time. The director did a great great job in capturing the feelings of people facing uncertainty, horror, ridicules, anger, death, waning faith... Family, life and dignity/integrity become the largest things in the situation. What's more is that it squarely shows the realist thinking in international politics.It honestly shows the weakness or helplessness of the UN and the non-governmental organizations. It truthfully tells how indifferent most of the international community (or individuals, which may or may not include you and me) are towards the deprivation of social justice taking place in other parts of the world. It makes you question to what extent that it is true to say what we see ( the sufferings in the world) is what we tolerate. It shows you how monstrous human being can be. It scares you how sanity would fail. At the same time, the uglier the people become, the more beautiful you find those who have managed to keep brave and maintain humanity. The movie fully succeeds in showing me the spirit, faith, and compassion that the world is dreaming for.
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An absolute must see
schicky6 January 2005
The only comment I can give about this movie is - SEE IT. It's one of the most heart wrenching, yet beautiful movies I've ever seen. I really hope Don Cheadle and the movie receive Oscars! The acting is superb and the fact this is based upon a true story only makes it better. You may need some Kleenex as I was overwhelmed for a large part of this movie.

I had the honor of seeing this movie at a preview screening with the real "Paul" and his wife attending - what an absolute amazing experience to be in their presence. This movie will make you rethink everything about what it means to be human and how much we need to think about all our neighbours in this world.

Don't miss it!
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A fantastic and powerful film
Surecure9 November 2004
I was fortunate to see this film at the Toronto Film Festival. I had heard nothing about this film before I read up on it in the Fest guide and originally was going to see something else. But, the subway happened to shut down and I was not going to be able to see the film I originally intended. So, I decided to give this a try.

And I am so very glad I did.

This film is by far the best drama I have seen all year, and indeed was the best film of the 11 I saw at the festival. It is gripping, heart-wrenching, and opens your eyes to so many things. Don Cheadle -- who I am a long time admirer of his work -- is phenomenal in the lead role, and I hope that he is nominated for Best Actor this year, because he certainly deserves it.

I am recommending this film to everybody I know and I hope that it gets a wide distribution because it certainly is a film that needs to be seen. While comparisons can be made to Schindler's List, I think that this film goes further to show that events like the Holocaust can happen any time -- even now -- so long as people look away, just as the UN did in Rwanda. It certainly makes one think about how easy it is for us to forget our history and allow it to be repeated, because (as one character says) we will watch it on TV, say that it is terrible, and go right on eating our dinner. 10/10
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This year's Schindler's List
Proud_Canadian15 September 2004
I was fortunate to see it at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Hotel Rwanda starred Don Cheadle and was directed by Terry George. It's based on a true event, about Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu who worked at four star hotel in Kigali. When the war broke out he thought of only saving his immediate family but as he saw what was happening he opened the hotel to Tutsi and Hutus seeking refuge from the killing. He used all the favours he had stored as manager of the hotel and basically saved over a thousand lives. This will be the next Schindler's list. When the film was over, there was a standing ovation. Don Cheadle was excellent as an ordinary man forced to do extra-ordinary things. Paul Rusesabagina and his family attended the screening and he received a five minute standing ovation. Even Michael Moore came to see this movie. I highly recommend it. 9/10.
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Documentary Feel & an Acting Treasure - A must see.
celicaricky9 December 2004
Just saw the San Francisco premier last night and it isn't a dramatization - it's much more of a documentary -- Hotel is extremely factual. CAN'T SAY ENOUGH ABOUT THIS FILM! INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE!

The Director and the story's protagonist were at the screening to answer questions. We ovated him for almost 10 minutes. Near the end of the q&a, an older man stood up and was called on. Slowly he commented that as a Tutsi, the movie gave him a lot to think about and that it may now be possible to find peace in his heart. The audience was stunned. And believe me, it takes a lot to silence a San Francisco audience.

One last comment, the film is indpendently made and distributed - no Hollywood involvement at all (Terry George is British). There will be no machine pumping out ads and radio anouncements about this one. Help get the word out - great film!
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A brilliant movie that deserved a Best Picture Oscar-nomination
anhedonia16 February 2005
At one point in "Hotel Rwanda," our hero Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) asks an American TV reporter (Joaquin Phoenix) how the western world could not intervene after seeing scenes of women and children being hacked by machete-wielding Hutu militia.

How could they not, indeed! As we all know, the west didn't intervene. Not surprising, really. After all, this was Africa and Rwanda had no oil reserves. The people being killed were innocent men, women and children, but they were poor and black.

A few years ago, former President Bill Clinton apologized to Rwandans for not intervening during the 100-day massacre that saw about one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus slaughtered in the most barbaric manner. It was gracious of Clinton, but a fat lot of good his apology did to the people who were killed and their families.

The Rwandan genocide - that's what it was, though western leaders split hairs over the meaning of genocide – also was a black mark on western nations, which simply got their citizens out of Rwanda and then remained indifferent to the senseless killings.

Terry George's film gives us one story about the Rwandan genocide, of one hero, Paul, a savvy, clever and cunning manager of a swank, four-star Belgian hotel in the capital, Kigali. When the massacres began, Paul, a Hutu, sheltered more than 1,200 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the hotel and saved them from the wrath of the bloodthirsty mobs.

Working from a smart script by Keir Pearson and George, "Hotel Rwanda" contains gutwrenching and emotionally trying moments not seen on the big screen since "Schindler's List" (1993). But whereas Spielberg's masterpiece was more arty and artistic - and I don't mean that pejoratively - George's film seems more immediate. Maybe it's because we now see a similar slaughter of poor, downtrodden people in the Darfur region of Sudan and, again, western nations aren't doing much other than threatening to rap the knuckles of the bad guys like angry teachers. This crisis gives "Hotel Rwanda" a sense of urgency.

As visceral as this film is at times, George handles everything in muted fashion. We never see the horrors firsthand. There's brief news footage of people being killed and one particularly searing scene when Paul and his bellhop Gregoire (Tony Kgoroge) find themselves on a bumpy road. The moment's made more horrifying because George unveils it quite matter-of-factly.

Making a PG-13 film about genocide requires numerous compromises. Putting most, if not all, of the violence off-camera is one such bargain George made. True, a closer look at the massacre would have rightly tortured us. But the film, nevertheless, works without gruesome moments. Pearson and George set out to make a story of heroism, survival, love and compassion amid the madness. And they succeeded.

Cheadle carries the entire film. There isn't a false note in his performance. For years, he's turned in one superb performance after another. He's one of those actors who never hits it wrong and whose performances always stand out even if the films themselves aren't all that memorable. Here, he's in equal measure the smooth manager, man with a conscience and frightened husband and father. You can sense Paul's frustration, though Cheadle rarely displays any vulnerability.

He gets great support from Sophie Okonedo as Paul's Tutsi wife, Tatiana, and Nick Nolte doing his best work in years as a Canadian United Nations officer, Colonel Oliver. Okonedo and Cheadle are utterly believable as a couple. They have one traumatic scene on the hotel roof, a quietly powerful moment that tugs at our heartstrings as we watch two people who love each other try to deal with what could happen. Okonedo conveys anger, fear and pain without ever turning the moment sentimental or needlessly overwrought. That's why the moment's shattering.

"Hotel Rwanda" isn't flawless. George doesn't harshly indict the west for its indifference. Also, some scenes, especially one near the film's end, seem staged for obvious dramatic effect, to play with our sense of sympathy and dread. But minor faults can easily be forgiven because the rest of the film works so well, never sensationalizing any moment. The film's straightforward approach gives it more power, makes it more trenchant and meaningful.

I would like to believe that we learn from history and the more powerful western nations will always come to the aid of oppressed people everywhere. But we're doing little in Darfur and although President George W. Bush openly touts his vision to spread liberty and democracy to oppressed peoples everywhere, I doubt he actually means it. After all, this freedom doctrine was something he created only after his initial justification for waging an unjust war - Iraq's supposed stockpiles of WMD - proved to be wholly without merit or fact. I doubt he actually considers bringing liberty to places like Zimbabwe or Burma. He speaks of the need for people to be free, conveniently ignoring some dictatorial nations - Pakistan and Turkmenistan, for instance - because they happen to be our allies. And so the dumb foreign policy continues.

I can only hope the success of "Hotel Rwanda" will prompt other gutsy screenwriters and filmmakers to tell us more stories about the horrors that took place and the complacency of industrialized nations that could have helped and chose not to.
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One of the most inspiring films I've ever seen.
RickyThind16 December 2004
I have just seen this film and have to say I am deeply moved by it. The premise of the film is about one mans struggle to do the right thing at when everything around him is going wrong.

Don Cheadle is the best African American actor out there. His passion and heart was so strong that moved me almost to tears. There is a definite wish here to let this story to be known to the world.

Its powerful and provocative in its indirect and subtle jabs at the west for not intervening into such a horror that took place in Rwanda.

Very well made and directed. Please see this and let it inspire you as it did me - to try cultivate selfless actions.

Thanks, Ricky Thind
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Extraordinary film based correctly on real deeds about the brutal genocide
ma-cortes21 December 2005
1994 Rwanda,Kigali. Paul Rusesabagina(Don Cheadle)is a Hutu happily married(Sophie Okonedo) and with children.He's Hotel manager Millie Collines proprietary of Belgian Airlines:Sabena and its General Director(Jean Reno) placed in Belgium.Paul is respected for his generosity,charm,friendship and numerous contacts with important people.He's accidentally trapped in violent events when his family and neighbours are threaten to kill.He gets avoid it by means of bribes with the hope that United Nations(UN) and international forces arrive to preventing the civil war. However the happenings break out again.After assassination of President of Rwanda, all get worse.It begins the horrible genocide including rampage,ravishing and ravage in Rwanda which is spread for Burundi.Slaughter of Tusis by the Hutu is executed by soldiers and rebels. A journalist(Joaquin Phoenix)get into tumult and will shoot to show it at the world.Paul gets to protect his family and unfortunates refugees at the hotel but others hapless by the hundred are coming to ask help.Meanwhile the refugees Tutsis flee toward Congo to find shelter.The film has an acid critic to the indolence of United Nations(exception Colonel incarnated by Nick Nolte) and international community and specially, the abandon of foreign policy European.

Thus, a personage says that origin conflict is for Belgians whom in colonization epoch differentiated the Tutsi as highest and complexion more white and co-governed united the country,now the Hutu are taking the vengeance. It's calculated that in the indiscriminate massacre were cruelly killed by militia Interhamwe approximately one million people and in only three month.Conflict finished in 1994 when the Tutsi throw out the Hutu army and militia through of the frontier Congo. Leader of Interhamwe was condemned to maxim penalty. Don Cheadle interpretation is magnificent ,he was nominated for Acadamy Award although wrongly didn't obtain it.The motion picture is well directed by Terry George. Rating : Awesome and above average .Indispensable watching
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Such an important film
RosalindChick8 February 2005
I'm a college freshman at a small school in New York taking a class on the individuals role and responsibility in community. We read the book "We'd like to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families" about the Rwandan genocide and then went to see this movie. It is very accurate about what happened but reading it is just not the same as seeing it, it seemed horrendous always but when I actually saw the movie it was just... Jesus... it's so hard to believe that this happened and that this could. The film was excellent in both execution and portrayal. Everyone must see this movie and know we are all human beings and it is our responsibility to be there for each other. Jesus Christ... this can not happen.
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An imperfect film but still a devastatingly emotional one that cries out to be seen (mild spoilers)
bob the moo31 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
In 1994 tensions are high in Rwanda between the ruling Hutus and the Tutsis rebels while the UN tries to broken a peace agreement. This is of little interest to Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu with a Tutsis wife whose position within a leading hotel means he has to curry favour with many officials and smoothing over any potential problems at every turn. When the Hutu president is assassinated, a massacre of Tutsis begin – adults and children alike. With the UN unable to take action due to the indifference of the West the murders continue and Paul finds himself with a hotel, evacuated of important whites but full of Tutsis refugees as the Hutus seek to finish the job they started.

I'm not entirely sure how one can review this film with a clear mind because no matter how good or bad a film it is, it is near impossible not to left shaken by the events it depicts. The plot follows the story of Paul Rusesabagina, who pulled all the strings he could to protect the Tutsis refugees who wound up in his hotel during the genocide by the Hutus. In this regard we are given a way into the atrocities through this specific story and this is both a strength and a weakness in the telling. The strength is that it gives us a focal point and a point of emotional connection that we can relate to and see a human face in the way that the terrifying numbers do not. However the downside of this is that it makes the story smaller than it could have been and puts the scale of atrocities outside of our direct view for the majority. It also means that it produces a "happy" ending that leaves you with a sense of some respite (not to mention the obligatory "African" song). This was a problem for me because the film had succeeded in gutting me at points and I didn't want to be left with any upbeat note – I wanted to go away feeling just like the foreign photographer did; "f**king ashamed".

However considering what the film does well, it is petty and unfair to make a bit issue out of the fact that the narrative is occasionally a bit clunky and perhaps that the depiction of the genocide doesn't go far enough. Even without graphic violence and more than one scene of actual horror the film still sickened me to my stomach, had me almost shaking with anger and fear while at the same time failing to prevent tears rolling. Like many viewers I knew little more than a genocide occurred and couldn't have told you which side was killing the other – this is not ignorance on my behalf but just the fact that the West ignored this and stood by while it occurred while the media gave it little or no coverage. The film depicts this very well giving us enough horror and enough human emotion mixed with an understanding of the West's attitude to produce an impression of an event that is indefensible and truly, truly horrific. The characters are quite broadly painted but they do enough to give us an understanding of what occurred. While I do feel that the film could have shown more and been wider, the close focus on the hotel and the Rusesabagina's means that we are never far from understanding the true extent of horror and just how much of a reality death is – Paul does not discuss how his family will survive if the hotel is stormed, only how they will die in the least horrific way.

Matching the tone of the film are two performances that blow away everyone they were nominated with at the 2005 Oscars. Cheadle's accent in Ocean's 11 was the worst cockney this side of Mary Poppins but here he gets the accent and mannerisms just right and made me forget that he was an American. His character changes throughout the film and he copes with it really well, producing a character that is easy to get behind and provides a very human face to the story. Okonedo is superb and is almost impossible to watch without being moved to tears more than once. Nolte is effectively gruff although he is less a character than he is a symbol of how ineffective the UN was at the time. In a similar vein Phoenix is excellent in a small role although really I could have done with a few less starry cameos as they tended to distract from the main material. Outside of the lead two, the actors are not given as much to work with as the lead two but Cheadle and Okonedo are superb and match the emotional impact of the material.

Overall this is not a perfect film; it didn't quite go far enough and the focus on a small group tended to conceal the scale of the genocide. However this is a minor complaint because the film is devastatingly effective and is impossible to watch without feeling lost, helpless and utterly ashamed for our inaction. This is not an easy watch and will not be a fun night out for the audience but for many reasons it deserves as large an audience as possible.
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An important film for our time
jmankoff24 November 2004
I attended the United States premier of Hotel Rwanda on November 3rd, 2004 in Philadelphia. I have never written a review for a movie before, but this movie was excellent and I am urging everyone I know that they should see it as well.

I lived in Rwanda in the summer of '04. I have read several books on the history of Rwanda and talked about the '94 genocide with locals in Rwanda and also with Rwandans living in the US. I am by no means an expert on the history or the country, but I do know a fair amount about it, which is part of why I am writing this review.

The movie was an excellent reproduction of what Rwanda is like and it tells the true story of one of the many heroes during that time. While it is a sad movie, it is also a story of hope. The portrayal of the violence was subtle and powerful, but not overly graphic. The movie focuses on the efforts of the manager of an upscale hotel in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda to protect the guests/refugees streaming into his hotel to escape the killing. The writer/directory (who spoke after the premier) said that he made an effort to get a PG13 rating rather than an R rating to ensure that students would be able to see this movie.

It is an important movie to see because it brings to life the hope and triumph in Rwanda. It also shows what the media did not show in '94 and is not showing in Darfur: The suffering of ordinary people who need help from the rest of the world. While governments repeat the phrase 'never again' yet do nothing, it is up to us to ordinary people to learn about these events and do something or make our governments do something about them. Please see this movie-it does not have the budget to launch everywhere and relies on word of mouth to generate enough interest to make it into every city.
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A document for humanity
jotix10019 March 2005
The madness one sees in this brilliant film is hard to imagine, yet it occurred in Rwanda. Terry George, the director, captures those terrible days in Rwanda in his film "Hotel Rwanda". Mr. George has to be commended for bringing to the screen a detailed account of a country in chaos. Working with Keir Pearson on the screen play, the director presents us with the horrors of what the country lived during the holocaust that befell Rwanda.

At the center of the story is Paul Rusesabagina, a courageous man who witnessed first hand the worst days of the Hutu rebellion and its bloody aftermath. This man alone was able to protect and to save more than a thousand Rwandans that clearly would not be around today, had it not been for his tremendous stand against people that showed no mercy, or wouldn't reason about what they were doing to their fellow citizens.

The performance of Don Cheadle, as Paul Rusesabagina, is worth the price of admission! This wonderful actor projects such an intelligence that it's hard to find in any American film released in 2004. Mr. Cheadle was right to portray this man; it was a role he was born to play. Mr. Cheadle got under the skin of the hotel manager and runs away with the film. It's hard to keep ones eyes from this commanding performance.

The rest of the mostly black cast is excellent. One must single out Sophie Okoneko, who plays Paul's wife with such dignity that she perfectly matches Mr. Cheadle's performance. Nick Nolte is fine as the UN Colonel trying to keep peace in a place gone mad.

Congratulations to Mr. George. With this film he touches us in more ways than we imagined. The unfortunate tragedy could well have been avoided if the international community would have intervened sooner, but obviously, it didn't even try until it was too late.
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Indisputably a quality film, Hotel Rwanda is nevertheless a little more Hollywood than I thought it would be
harry_tk_yung27 March 2005
The basic hurdle for the world to have more empathy with the macro issue of the horrendous massacre is the fact that the world is uninformed. Unlike the situation of Nazis and Jews, Irish Catholics and British Protestants or Crusade and Islam, the issue of Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda has not generally been heard of by an average citizen of the world. In the movie, the reporter asks two women at the bar in Hotel Rwanda what tribe they belong to. "Hutu" says one, and "Tutsi", the other. The reported turns around and comments to his companion "They look like twins to me". That says a lot.

The film does educate us on the brief background of the local history, on how the Belgians used the Tutsi's to rule the Hutu and so since they left, the Hutu had been waiting for their chance to revenge. That is however just the bare backbone of the history, but we have not been brought to a deeper understanding of the bitter hatred that drove the Hutus to a diabolical genocide of a million Tutsi in 1994 as the world turned its back: "the nations are united in their indifference towards Rwanda" as Mr. Ebert aptly puts it.

Rather than being an epic on macro scale, Hotel Rwanda is a personal story (albeit a true one) on micro scale, about hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina's heroic efforts which saved twelve hundred hotel "guests" of Tutsi descent, including his own wife. This is a story told with high quality filming and yet one cannot help but come away feeling that it leans slightly towards looking like a Hollywood thriller. It would be gross injustice to say it's crafted and yet, the climax after climax of narrow escape and cliffhanging suspense does feel a tad Hollywood. It would be gross injustice to say that it's a tearjerker and yet one cannot help feeling traces of familiarity in the Hollywood style emotional pull. And there is considerable predictability, such as the sudden bumpy ride of the jeep in the fog would be easily discerned by a regular moviegoer as the signal for the next scene: a road strewn with bodies of massacred victims.

Oscar nominee Don Cheadle's performance as the circumstance-driven hero is deservedly recognized by the nomination. Nick Notle, who was wonderful in "Clean", puts in another great performance here as a similarly circumstance-driven hero in the U.N. peace keeping force Col. Oliver. The rest of the cast contributing to making this film a solid success includes Sophie Okonedo who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress as Pauls's wife Tatiana and Joaquin Phoenix as the reporter whose videotape of the massacre made the world pay attention. All told, Hotel Rwanda is a high-quality movie, but I can't agree with many comments hailing Hotel Rwanda as another Schindler's List.
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Go see it!
Gundersonm13 February 2005
This is a terrific movie. The performances are spectacular, particularly Don Cheadle. He deserves an Oscar for his portrayal of the hotel manager. The movie itself is much more important than just entertainment value. Most people aren't familiar with the horrific events in Rwanda in the 1990's, but they should be. We tend to think that genocide is something from the past that just doesn't happen in today's "civil" modern world. The true story behind this movie proves just the opposite. With all the focus on the Holocaust in World War II and all the talk about "never letting it happen again," the world as a whole failed the people of Rwanda miserably just a few years ago. Everyone should see this movie, and learn a thing or two.
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Probably the most important movie of 2004
Red-1255 February 2005
Hotel Rwanda (2004) Directed by Terry George, is the great film of 2004.

Don Cheadle plays Paul Rusesabagina, an African who has bought into the European ideal of the perfect life. He's the manager of a four-star hotel in Rwanda. He has a beautiful wife (played by Sophie Okonedo), handsome and healthy young children, a new vehicle, and a fine suburban home.

All this changes when civil strife erupts in Rwanda. When this happens the former colonial powers wash their hands of the problems, and the Rwandans are left to fend for themselves in an atmosphere of increasing violence and anarchy.

The acting is excellent and the story is emotionally gripping. Like Schindler's List, the film follows one man's attempt to save as many people as he can. Schindler and Rusesabagina were heroic, resourceful, and amazingly effective. However, as individuals, they could accomplish only so much. Outside intervention could have saved a million lives in Rwanda, but it was never forthcoming. The Rwandan genocide is one of the great tragedies of the 20th century. Hotel Rwanda brings this horror onto the screen and into our lives.

Addendum: Nick Nolte plays Colonel Oliver, the U.N. commander in Rwanda. This role is obviously based on Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian officer who commanded the ridiculously small force of 400 U.N. soldiers. These troops were unable to do anything more than watch the genocide taking place before their eyes. General Dellaire's story is told in Steven Silver's film "The Last Just Man."
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See "Shooting dogs" instead...
Bambikilled6 June 2012
This is a good movie. That can't be denied. But it is also the polished PG-13 version of one of the most horrifying events in modern history. Every little bit of information about the Rwandan genocide, that can find its way to the knowledge of people, is of course precious, and for that I am happy that this movie was made and brought lights to the topic in a way that regrettably not even the actual genocide could do. BUT... (And this is a big BUT.)

This movie, has IMO never been able to fully depict the absolute horror of the genocide in Rwanda. It is not about the amounts of blood on the screen, nor the number of bodies in piles in the frames. It's about how you close up to the subject. And nothing in this movie makes me relive the anguish and emotional trauma which I felt when I was in Rwanda, some 8 yrs after the genocide. I have seen the scarred remains of a country trying to build itself up from the ashes. I've seen the mass graves, the Gacaca courts, the thousands and yet thousands of convicted perpetrators in their pink uniforms, working the fields. I have been to the survivors center and I have seen the thousands of skulls lying in N'tarama Church. What does "Hotel Rwanda" make me feel? Not very much. (As a note - I have also been to "Mille Collines". Which was a rather bizarre feeling, that luxury in the midst of poor Kigali.) This movie is just a little bit too detached from the reality as it was, to get to you in the way that the story of the genocide really does, if told in another way. Sure, I can see that people who have not known much about the Rwandan genocide, can get very emotionally affected by the movie, and I do too, of course. But, I still think that this movie makes a quite a shallow impression compared with other movies on the topic. Of course, I wasn't there when it actually happened, but when you have seen the mayhem after it with your own eyes, it's still different to when you haven't.

AND ALSO - the thing that bugs me the most is the fact that Paul Rusesabagina really isn't quite the hero the world seems to think him to be. Did you know that the man "sold" shelter to the refugees coming to Mille Collines? The ones with money got in, the ones without, didn't. So the people who survived thanks to Rusesabagina were mainly very rich. Of course it's good that they survived, but what about the ones with no money. Rusesabagina did good, yes. But is he a hero? No. The heroes were the families who hid their neighbors, the UN-soldiers who desperately tried to get word out to the the rest of the world and get military task forces in, but were ignored and left to see the slaughter with tied hands. The people who risked their own lives to try to save others. The soldiers of the RPF, who were the ones who stopped this madness. Never believe everything you see in a movie without trying to get the full picture.

No... if you are interested in this horrific but engaging chapter of modern history, and wish to know more about the shameful way in which the UN and the rest of the world handled the whole thing, I strongly recommend you to watch some other stuff. Like the best movie made about the Rwandan genocide: "Shooting dogs", which is much more likely to get you to understand the event in a more broad way, as well as give a much more deep emotional experience. "Shake hands with the devil" is a very well made TV-production about one of the true heroes from Rwanda 1994 - Roméo Dallaire. (On which Nolte's character in "Hotel Rwanda" was loosely based). There is also a very good documentary with the same name - "Shake hands with the devil - the journey of Roméo Dallaire". Also, there are some other movies on the topic - of which "Sometimes in April" is the best. I recently saw "Kinyarwanda", which was very good from some aspects.
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When the world closed its eyes, he opened his arms.
Lady_Targaryen10 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
''Hotel Rwanda'''is a very powerful and sad story showing the atrocities that happened in Rwanda in 1994,where almost 1 million people were killed in 100 days. The division of two groups, the tutsis and the hutus,made Rwanda's peace something to dream about. We see that all started when the Belgians gave power to the tustsis, because they had a fair skin and a complexion much more similar of the Europeans then the hutus. Even measuring the noses was a normal thing to do. Years after, the Hutus were the ones who stayed with the power and they wanted revenge by smashing the tutsis.

This movie shows the history of a man called Paul Rusesabagina and his courage during the war in Rwanda, when he saved the lives of over a thousand helpless tutsi refugees from a big genocide. Paul is a hutu, but his family is tutsi, another reason to have experienced the terrible things the hutus were doing to the tutsis.

Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo are both awesome in their roles, and Don should have won the best actor award/Nobel.

Ps: Jean Reno's cameo here.
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Too grave a topic to deal with in such a manner
flat67 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is a 'negative review', and I'm having a hard time explaining why I'm dissatisfied with this movie. I'll do my best. First off, it is a noble effort – the fact that this movie covers this topic of the Rwandan genocide, attempting to bring it a wide audience, is something to be commended. In the contemporary clutter of brainless, feel-good movies, anything that tries to be somewhat responsible and serious is to be commended for effort alone. But dealing with a topic of this magnitude is a double edged sword: the movie has a responsibility to making the viewer feel 1 million dead.

Unfortunately, it doesn't manage to escape the formulaic Hollywood feel-good story of the hero who wins out in the end. This typical treatment may be fine for other topics, but Rwanda was a real genocide, and this tragedy should not be treated as the playground of 'based on a true story' movies.

When there are 1 million people being butchered, I don't want to see the main character hugging his wife, telling the audience how much his family means to him. I don't want to see the obviously sanitized gruesomeness that won't revolt the typical movie-goer. And please, I don't want to see the many, many cheap and improbable just-in-time rescues. Not here. That's too easy.

I can see that in every other popcorn flick concerning concocted disasters befalling some typical hero. (This type of treatment has been cheapened by its predecessors, and it no longer genuinely reaches the audience - or at least this member of the audience.) Something truly original was needed here, a delicate mix between the irrationality and inhumanity of the conflict. Instead, it let just a little bit of Hollywood formula creep in, and for Rwanda, that is unacceptable. Despite its excellent attempt, the movie fails.

Perhaps not surprisingly. This movie sets a huge expectation for itself by dealing with such a gruesome, REAL event. How do you condense into 2 hours something that no one can even begin to grasp, understand, explain? But the difficulty of its task still doesn't rescue this movie, because effort marks can only go so far. Even the slightest bit of over dramatization and the show cheapens – the lovely tale of the hotel manager falls apart, and the figure of 1 million dead reappears. It turns Hotel Rwanda from an attempt to make one understand and appreciate this bit of history… into a gimmicky, easy-to-swallow portrayal of the genocide of 1 million people. Hotel Rwanda isn't gimmicky, nor easy-to-swallow, by any USUAL set of standards, but just dealing with the Rwandan genocide raises the standard to an impossible level. Not surprisingly, the movie can't reach those impossible standards; I don't know that anything this side of an excellent documentary can.
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Not bad, but definitely a disappointment
The_Void14 March 2005
Sentimental dramas are not my thing, but after the good reviews that Hotel Rwanda has been winning itself; I figured it has to be worth a go, and it was; but that's all it's worth. For a film that's supposed to 'stay with you' and 'leave an impact'; Hotel Rwanda is a huge disappointment. There isn't much in this film that wouldn't be able to be took from a documentary on the subject of the plight of Rwanda; but it has to be said, in spite of this, that Hotel Rwanda balances it's story with the human drama rather well, as not too much time is ever spent on either. The film can easily be likened to a disaster movie, as it gives two sides of a story - one being a terrible happening and the other being the effect on the people involved. This likeness continues when you come to realise that the protagonists are totally uninvolving characters and the only reason that the film gives you for feeling for them is the fact that they're the leads. Hotel Rwanda will get praise from some people because it's based on a true story, but this film fan isn't as easily impressed as many evidently are.

The film is very well put together, with the acting, direction and production values all being very classy examples of how good each can be. The story takes in themes of the futility of war, love for your fellow man and, of course, the race divide (another reason for the good critical reaction), and it has to be said that all of these things are done well, and even quite potent at times. The film is also notable for avoiding many of the pitfalls that befall most dramas of this nature - things such as over the top sentiment or long, heartfelt speeches. While the film definitely has an underbelly of sentiment, it never sees fit to fully expose it; and that is always a good thing in my opinion. The film is keen to give glimpses of it at it at times, however, and these moments tend to be cringe-worthy. The ending is a prime example of that; and despite the fact that this is based on a true story and that's simply 'how it ends'; the film could have handled it better, and then I wouldn't have left the cinema feeling like I'd just been slapped in the face after spending two hours of my time on the film.

On the whole, Hotel Rwanda is a long shot away from being a 'bad' film; but it's not a great film either, and the lack of sympathy for the characters will make some people feel like they should have watched a straight documentary instead. Many have, and will continue to be seduced by the racism theme and the fact that it's based on a true story; but not me, and hopefully not you either, as there's more to a great film than just that.
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WildCherryBear246 February 2005
I heard this movie was good but that really isn't true. It is a masterpiece! I have never been so moved by a movie. This movie is just so sad and moving. I can't even imagine what the real thing must have been like. Please see this movie. I think it is important for the world to know what happened and to remember what happened to the Tootsie people. I really hope this movie wins an Acadamy Award all in the movie were amazing and did an amazing job portraying the seemingly hopeless situation they were in. The part that bothers me is how no one tried to help. I'd like to believe we didn't know but that's not true. What Jaquin Phonix's character said is true "They'll say 'that's terrible' and then they'll go back to eating their dinner." and it'also true what the UN officer said. People just didn't care enough. I hope this film teaches us that people of all races and countries are important.
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An African holocaust
stamper16 March 2005
As one can probably imagine, a film with an 8,5 out of 10 (with 4.356 votes) ranking at number 130 of the IMDb's top 250 has few naysayers. There are some there however and I've taken the trouble to read them. What I think is sort of funny, is that many of the critique that is placed is utterly stupid. One person actually goes so far as to say that the film:

"doesn't manage to escape the formulaic Hollywood feel-good story of the hero who wins out in the end. This typical treatment may be fine for other topics, but Rwanda was a real genocide, and this tragedy should not be treated as the playground of 'based on a true story' movies."

This is I feel a very feeble critique. This is not a film about the Rwandan genocide as is was, but a film about the events Paul Rusesabagina witnessed. He cannot help the fact that he didn't get to see much of the genocide and that he and his family survived in the end. Or maybe flat6 (the writer) thinks they should have just killed Rusesabagina off in the film, which certainly would have been more dramatic, but much less true. Also, doesn't this criticism mean that Schindler's List is a bad film as well?

Another writer, imdb-45 states that:

"The film gives no treatment as to the reason for the hatred between the two sects of African black people and concentrates virtually on a man's heroic attempt to save people in a hotel, many of which are would-be victims of the genocide."

If I'm not mistaken, the reason for the hatred is actually clearly outline in a conversation between Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), Jack (Joaquin Phoenix) and a local African journalist. I mean I am no expert on the subject, but it seemed pretty clear to me (if that was the whole of it). Basically it was just like WW 2, based on race, an African holocaust so to speak (although less organized and without the concentration camps as far as I know).

The same author states that:

"there is an awkward product plug for Volkswagon that ruins a genuinely amusing moment. There are product plugs for several different alcohol beverages that don't quite feel right."

Well, sorry but in reality people use product and brand names on a daily basis. So why not in a film? Because than it is advertising? If you recommend a brand of beer to your friends it is also advertising in a way, although on a much smaller scale.

Someone else, fooltank77, states that the film doesn't say what happened after the genocide. While that is true, it isn't a flaw. This is the story of Paul Rusesabagina and his family and what happened tot hem during the genocide. The rest is nothing of the films concern. Also, everybody who watches the news occasionally or reads the paper knows that it is far from peaceful down there even now. Do you need to have everything presented to you? Personally I felt that this was a very impressing and good film. The performances and the directing were great and despite the fact that the film didn't show much of the slaughter, it was emotionally unsettling enough. I was especially astounded by the fact that the UN did so little to help. I knew that there wasn't much interference, but the fact that there was virtually no help at all just goes to show that Africa is just too far away for the rich and distant countries to worry. I daresay that the events in the film made me almost ashamed to be living in one of those rich UN countries.

I feel that if you actually go to see this film and expect it to be an individual tale within a massive cultural slaughter, you will come to accept that this film has it's boundaries and doesn't show everything that happened before , during or after the genocide. Demanding that and claiming the film is bad because it doesn't give you everything there is, would be like saying Schindler's list is bad, because it didn't show the political situation in Germany in the beginning of the 1930's, how Hitler gained his power, what happened in Stalingrad, what Dr.Mengele did during medical experiments on Jews or the killing of the moffen-hoeren (women who had sex with Germans during WW 2) in the Netherlands after the war. My point here is that a film like Schindler's list doesn't actually have as much background info as is demanded of this film by some viewers. It is just that we (in the western world) now much more about WW 2 than we do of a distant African genocide. Also there is so much suffering when something like this occurs and one film can not show it all. All it can do is show us parts of the tragedy and maybe inspire viewers to try and find out more about it. Giving a complete picture of such a tragedy is like completing a puzzle. Bear in mind that this is only the first piece…hopefully.

8 out of 10
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Hotel Rwanda honors a man who made a difference
seaview126 January 2005
A decade ago, the country of Rwanda underwent a costly civil war which claimed countless lives while a whole world stood by. In the true story of Hotel Rwanda, one ordinary man took it upon himself to save as many people as he could even risking his own life and the lives of his family.

This hotel is a luxurious venue for travelers (mostly white) to spend a pleasant trip while attended to by the staff and its manager, Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle). Ominous signs in the news and rumors point to growing hostilities between two ethnic groups, the minority and former ruling group of Tutsis and the majority group of Hutus. A militaristic movement among the Hutus begins to form even as an impending peace treaty is brokered. When one leader is assassinated, all hell breaks loose. This is civil war at its worst as the Hutus begins to attack and kill the Tutsis en masse. It is the beginning of a genocide that will claim close to a million lives as the United Nations does relatively little to intervene.

As the white guests are escorted to safety by United Nations troops, things grow desperate for those left behind. Paul starts to shelter a few people including his own family and then more refugees until over 1200 fearful souls seek safety in the hotel. In some instances, it is out of necessity that he take in people who have nowhere to go. Pretty soon he realizes that he must do all he can to save his people and himself. This means calling on favors and relationships with any and all who can help, and frequently it means the difference between life and death. There are numerous occasions where the military is ready to take the refugees away or execute them and Paul on the spot. There is stark evidence of the increasing atrocities as homes are burned and bodies litter the roads. Bribes and supplies begin to run short, and as the outnumbered UN forces return to escort only a limited number to safety, the rebels begin to descend on them and the hotel.

As a shameful, cautionary tale of what happened when the world ignored its most needy, Hotel Rwanda serves its purpose, but the main thrust of the story is the love Paul has for his wife and children and the determination to save them. The important thing is how he responds to the horrific events and how he must think his way out of seemingly impossible situations. It is truly remarkable how resourceful the real Paul Rusesabagina was in staving off doom.

As portrayed by Don Cheadle, we understand his thought processes and feel his pain. He never loses his humanity and compassion for his fellow man. It is a splendid job of acting. Ironically, Cheadle (who was not considered box office leading material by the studios) has leaped into the forefront of leading men for good after having spent most of his career in strong supporting parts (Bulworth, Oceans 11, Out of Sight). Sophie Okonedo is quite good as the wife who must fight for her family and support her beleaguered husband. Nick Nolte plays a recurring part as a UN officer whose units of soldiers are virtually powerless to help. Joaquin Phoenix has a small role as a news cameraman witnessing the beginning slaughter and Jean Reno has a good cameo as a hotel executive in France who proves to be a valuable ally.

Although, there was initial difficulty in securing financing for this project, director Terry George (who also wrote the screenplay with Keir Pearson) does not seem to have skimped on his visuals. The massive crowd scenes and evidence of mass execution are thorough and impressive. It is as if we are living a real life documentary about war. He does a nice job of contrasting the chaos in the countryside with the peaceful, relative calm inside the hotel. He also manages to balance the tension and terror with a few effective moments of honest humor especially with Paul's family-quite a feat.

While there are obvious similarities in theme to Schindler's List, Hotel Rwanda's protagonist is not only the benefactor, but he becomes a potential victim, thus raising the stakes. Even with a PG-13 rating compared to Schindler's R rating, this is no less compelling history and the events no less despicable. George does not have the directorial flourishes of Spielberg, but his film succeeds on an emotional level.

Although the subject matter may cause potential audiences to pause, those who want an intelligent, honest depiction of one man's remarkable acts of heroism amid an unthinkable tragedy will not be disappointed. It is a courageous film that teaches the audience about individual responsibility and choice. It is about one man making a difference for over a thousand of his countrymen amid the horror and chaos even as the world turned its back.

**** out of **** (every bit as good as the five Oscar nominated Best Pictures of 2004)
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Making a film and a contribution to humanity
Chris_Docker2 March 2005
I usually say my criteria for assessing a film are asking myself if it inspired, educated or entertained me. I somehow don't seem to have a category for 'it totally devastated me'.

Nearly all the main characters are based on real life people – very real. One of the problems we have in coming to terms with the ethnic destruction of a peoples we have no knowledge of, have little culturally in common with, have little to identify them as 'people' other than a biological acknowledgement is that, for us, they are not very 'real'. So is the point of a film about the Rwandan genocide that left a million dead that they become more real? Does that make any difference? One of the results of going to see this very powerful, very harrowing (and in terms of the personal integrity and bravery of some central characters, very beautiful) film is that part of the proceeds go towards helping the people who are left. Another, perhaps, is that by becoming more aware of suffering our desire to find a way to avoid or alleviate it increases. The film shows a divide between - on one hand - the Rwandan people who, rich or poor, had sensibilities much like you or I, - and on the other hand - the troglodytes that wanted to kill each other and (with a logic reminiscent of President Bush's "if you're not with us you're against us" simplistic attitude) anyone who didn't join them. The inclusiveness of the carnage and the inability (or unwillingness) of the West to help meant there was no get out along the lines of 'if they want to kill each other let them'.

The performances are so spellbinding that it is hard to watch the film without feeling the suffering of those involved. Although it points the finger at a reluctance of the West to get involved, we also have to ask ourselves that, even if the powerful governments or the UN were willing to get involved, could the carnage have been prevented? The lack of any well-structured hint at a potential solution is perhaps one of the (very few) flaws of the film. Similarly, the swiftness of some of the events makes historic sense but there is not always enough detail to explain why things happened the way they did. But it seems clear that some intervention could have at least reduced a large amount of the carnage, so in a way Hotel Rwanda is a protest against international apathy.

The official website of the movie provides much in the way of reference material, links and analysis. This helped to confirm my view while watching the film that those involved felt that there was something more at stake than being film stars. In doing so they have become true stars, irrespective of what awards were won or not.
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