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27 November 2014

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Review: Hotel Rwanda
Hotel Rwanda
Hotel Rwanda

Anjool Malde reviews the Rwandan answer to Schinder's List.


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By Anjool Malde

Over a decade after Africa’s worst genocide of recent times where almost a million civilians were brutally murdered, a gripping true story of one individual’s selflessness and courage in the face of immense chaos makes it to the British cinema screen in a Rwandan answer to Schindler’s List.

Ocean Eleven’s Don Cheadle takes the lead role as Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu middle-class hotel manager, initially living the high life of fine cigars and champagne with influential acquaintances and unprepared for an overnight turnaround of fortune following the assassination of the Rwandan president by Tutsi rebels.

With his wife Tatiana (Oscar-nominated British actress Sophie Okonedo) a Tutsi, his family’s safety are now on the line, though this is the tip of the iceberg as Paul finds himself responsible for accommodating over 1,200 as his sophisticated hotel transforms into a refuge camp for those whose lives are at risk.

Betrayed by his powerful friends as the west turns a blind eye to the atrocities, having to work against the propaganda of ‘Hutu Power’ radio broadcasts and receiving inadequate help from a Bush-esque UN Colonel Oliver (Nick Nolte), Paul ensures that his ‘guests’ escape the same fate of their counterparts across the nation and reach safety.

Director Terry George and writer Keir Pearson faced the impossible task of balancing reality with sensitivity – an accurate portrayal of the genocide, with 800,000 killed mostly with machetes and clubs within a hundred days, may have been branded as overly distressing. Instead only a brief glimpse of the fields of bodies is captured as the scenes focus on the comparatively good fortunes of Paul’s family and the safe refugees.

The consequences of the western world and the UN failing to intervene is arguably played down, but Hotel Rwanda is an important production in highlighting the danger of having ‘rival’ groups fighting for dominance in this day and age. The need for unity and harmony in Africa is well conveyed in Wyclef Jean’s soundtrack record ‘Million Voices’, but the continuing atrocities across the continent suggest that the film is powerless in wanting to invoke change for the better.

The views expressed in these comments are those of the contributor's and not the BBC.

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