Let’s Get Reel: Hotel Rwanda

Photo Courtesy of Flixster

Drew Kaplan ‘20, Staff Writer

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Looking for a film to make you think and cry at the same time? Try Hotel Rwanda. Set in Rwanda during the Rwandan genocide, the film follows Hutu hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, played by Don Cheadle, in his efforts to shelter refugees, both Tutsi and Hutu, from the violence that engulfs his country.

Paul Rusesabagina works as the hotel manager at an upscale hotel in Kigale, Rwanda. Although he is ethnically Hutu, his wife and children are Tutsi. Anti-Tutsi violence has been on the rise recently, fueled by economic issues in the country. Paul’s marriage even becomes a source of friction between him and his friends, namely Georges Rutaganda, a local goods supplier and leader of a Hutu militia. When the President of Rwanda is assassinated, a Hutu radio station broadcasts a coded message, to “cut the tall trees”, which sparks the creation of violent armed Hutu groups. As Paul and his family flee their home, they witness bodies in yards, and in streets; homes are burnt. A stunning moment is when Paul is forced to choose between executing his family or being killed himself by a group of soldiers. Paul is able to avoid death by bribing the soldiers, who then escort him and his largely Tutsi family to safety.

As the situation worsens, all white guests at the hotel where Paul works are evacuated under armed guard, and hundreds of refugees pour in. UN Peacekeepers are unable to use force to defend the hotel. A UN convoy is put together to attempt an escape. Paul’s family boards the trucks, but Paul does not. He intends to stay at the hotel, and help the remaining refugees. However, UN convoy of refugees is caught attempting to escape, they are attacked by a large band of Hutu rebels, and are forced to return to the hotel. The Rwandan army then arrives at the hotel, and begins to comb the hotel for Tutsi’s, taking many hostages. Paul pleads with the general in charge, an old friend of his, to stop his men. Paul’s bribes are not enough though, he resorts to blackmail, telling the general he’ll be charged with war crimes if Paul doesn’t survive to tell the world the general is innocent. The general then arranges for a convoy, carrying Paul, his family, and the remaining hotel refugees to safety.

Hotel Rwanda is an excellent film. It tugs at the heartstrings, but also forces us to think deeply about our values and our political beliefs. Should the UN have intervened in Rwanda? Are you willing to risk your life to save others? These are questions you will need to ask yourself as you watch this film. It is one of the better films I’ve seen in a long time.

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