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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

photo caption:
LOOKING FOR A SAFE HAVEN: At the time of the slaughter of more than 900,00 Tutsis in Rwanda, Hutu Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle, left, holding the child) was able to bring his Tutsi wife Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), together with their children, to the hotel that he managed, where they were safe. At great personal risk, Paul managed to save the lives of over a thousand Tutsis from the genocidal Hutus in 1994.
end caption.

Hotel Rwanda: Schindler-Style Heroics Recounted from African Episode of Ethnic Cleansing

Review by Kam Williams

Ten years ago a long-simmering civil strife in Rwanda erupted into war between the African nation's two major tribes, the Hutus and the Tutsis. While under colonial rule (1919-1962), the minority Tutsis were favored by the Belgians.

However, with independence, the Hutus became the rulers. In April of 1994, relations between the Hutus and Tutsis had markedly deteriorated and the Hutu government openly called for ordinary citizens to slaughter any Tutsis they encountered. Over 900,000 of Rwanda's population of 7.5 million perished during three months of senseless, ethnic cleansing.

Hotel Rwanda was written and directed by Academy Award-nominated scriptwriter Terry George (In the Name of the Father), who adapted his screenplay from Philip Gourevitch's harrowing account that originally appeared in the New Yorker magazine. Gourevitch later expanded the article into a best-selling book We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda.

The film portrays the brave actions of a Hutu, Paul Rusesabagina, who saved the lives of 1,268 Tutsis by providing them refuge inside the Milles Collines, a luxury hotel he managed in the city of Kigali. Don Cheadle, who plays Paul Rusesabagina, may receive an Academy Award nomination for his performance. Mr. Rusesabagina's accomplishments are similar to those of Oskar Schindler, a German who saved over 1,100 Jews from extermination in the Holocaust and whose story was depicted in the film Schindler's List.

While desperately appealing to the U.N., the U.S., and European countries for protection that never arrives, Mr. Rusesabagina keeps the Hutus at bay with bribes and liquor. By keeping his wits about him, he is able to preserve a safe oasis in the midst of the insanity surrounding him. The film captures the panic and sense of terror which accompanies the degeneration of Rwanda into chaos.

The director deliberately shows scenes with piles of corpses in order to convey the sense of what it's like to live with blood running in the streets. He personalizes the tragedy, thereby keeping the drama intimate and compelling, by focusing on Paul and his family. Since Paul's wife, Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), is Tutsi, she and their children have to be hidden along with the rest of those unfortunates who would have otherwise been murdered.

The movie was shot in Johannesburg, South Africa and features a cast of locals except for the lead actors. Hotel Rwanda received three Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Cheadle), and Best Song (Wyclef Jean).

Other notable performances include those by Ms. Okonedo, Nick Nolte as a U.N. colonel, Cara Seymour as a Red Cross worker, and Joaquin Phoenix who played a journalist whose reports from the region were ignored by the international community until it was too late.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated PG13 for violence, profanity, and disturbing images. Running time: 115 minutes. Distributor: MGM/United Artists.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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