Dir: Terry George. 2004.S Afr-UK-It. 122mins.
Terry George's gripping,fact-based Hotel Rwanda brings to mind both The Killing Fieldsand Schindler's List, but its low-key approach means it is unlikely tobecome as commercially successful as those two titles. That said, it did winthe Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival at the weekend.
Written by Terry George and newcomer KeirPearson, who has been researching the story since the mid 1990s, the film tellsthe true story of Paul Rusesabagina, a reluctant hero who was made manager ofthe posh Hotel Milles Collines in Kigali for 100 days in 1994 - while the Hutuswere slaughtering the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The shocking events, whichthe world community turned a blind eye to, will leave no one unmoved, butGeorge cleverly focuses on the human story instead of the politics, making itall the more accessible to audiences. It makes the film much more restrainedthan similar features dealing with unbelievable atrocities; hopefullydistributors won't find audiences as uncaring about the film as the world wasabout the realities.
When the attacks begin,Rusesabagina (Cheadle) first and foremost thinks of saving his own Tutsi wifeand children; gradually he is forced to help more than a thousand refuges oncethe massacre starts. As the manager of a modern colonial-style hotel, he hasbeen saving up favours from rich Westerners and local military and criminals -and these come in handy when he begins to bribe military and rebels alike.
However, though the refugeesmanage to barricade themselves in the hotel, the help Paul expects to arrivefrom the outside world never arrives, and soon the Westerners are evacuated.Even the UN troops under the authority of Canadian Colonel Oliver (Nolte) are not permitted to fight the attacking rebels, and in the 100 dayspeople are stuck at the hotel, more than a million people are killed.
George, directing his secondfilm after 1996's Some Mother's Son(he has also collaborated as a writer with Jim Sheridan on the likes of
It is the historical tragedyand quiet bravery of the main character that make the film stand-out. Georgealso chooses not to point fingers and make simplistic accusations, though heeasily could have, and the result is that most audiences will look to their owncountries for blame.
Don Cheadle, in his firstlead, gives a solid performance as Paul Rusesabagina. He is well supported bythe rest of the cast, with Sophie Okonedo especially a stand out as Paul's wifeTatiana.
Prod cos: Miracle Pictures, Seamus Prods, United Artists
Int'l sales: Lions Gate
Exec prods: Hal Sadoff, MartinKatz
Prod: Alex Ho, Terry George
Scr: Terry George, Keir Pearson
Cine: Robert Fraisse
Ed: Naomi Geraghty
Prod des: Tony Burrough, JohnnyBreedt
Music: Andrea Guerra
Main cast: Don Cheadle, SophieOkonedo, Nick Nolte, Desmond Dube, Mothusi Magano