Category Archives: Movies

Review: Hotel Rwanda

Director: Terry George

Perhaps it’s my dark nature but I’m very drawn to massacres and media dealing with massacres. Schindler’s list, The pianist, Primo Levi, Vonnegut, I watch and read with the attention I do not give to others, such as Jane Austen.

Hotel Rwanda is the story of the Hotelier Paul Ruvasagina who is a Hutu Hotelier in the employ of a Belgium hotel and who saves a thousand or so Tutsi’s by allowing them to take refuge in the hotel and trying to ensure their safe passage through bribery and solicitation of the UN peace keepers.

In reality the Rwandan massacre was a most unfortunate event in human history where over a million people were killed in 100 days on the basis that they were tsutsis, probably worse than killing jews because the tsutsis were for most purposes no different to the hutus, the division being arbitrarily made by Belgium colonialists – a point made quite clear in the film when Joaquin Phoenix (of gladiator fame) asks one lady which they are and they say ‘hutu’ and then asks her firend and the reply is ‘tsutsi’.

The plotline is somewhat constrained by the fact that the film is based on real life events, so the director would be really in for it if he were to say, wrap a cape around Paul the hotelier and have him take up an angry sub-machine gun in with unlimited ammunition to all the hutus. The usual eye for an eye moral code would have been very enjoyable, far more than the faithful truth where Paul is only a hotelier with limited means.

I think the only liberty with the truth that the director has taken is to include a lousy, but requisite, love story between Paul and his wife. Love within wedlock is cute, but not titillating. At least, it is thankful that Paul isn’t portrayed as an absolute saint because he is a man with his priorities right – family first, and he is driven by fear, vanity etc. I’m not denying the existence of love, but merely saying it wasn’t quite like that right?

In a nutshell the movie is simply a character study of the hotelier man, he begins arrogant, he see’s some ¬†bad stuff, he acts instinctively to do the humane thing, he suffers, he gets angry, he gets battered, but he weathers it and he survives and is a hero. Everyone else may as well be made from cardboard because they don’t really get a look in, the UN colonel, the wife, the brother, the sister, the wife, the humanitarian worker, the cameramen; there’s not enough screen time for their backgrounds to be fleshed out, or even for Paul’s childhood to be decried. It is thankful in this case that Don Cheadle does such a good job playing him, though it was alarming to find later that night that he plays the guy in War Machine in Iron man 2 – but who will check us in at the hotel Michelin in Kigali? Of special mention for worst acting is the UN colonel, I know his directions from the director must’ve been to “look as though you’re hiding something” but, surely, such an obvious throwaway that he’s hiding something does not do any good for the suspense factor.

The director¬†tries throughout to permeate the film with the notion of impending violence or suspense he does not quite get there. The acts shown on screen are not cruel enough, not enough relatives die on screen, I wasn’t really made to care for them, the lead up was not happy enough. Thus, if you’re after some excitement (shame on you…) then I suggest the Killing Fields about the Cambodian massacres. But if you want to learn a little about what happened in Rwanda, and finally tell the difference between Hutu’s and Tsutsi’s then Hotel Rwanda is a good way to spend two hours doing that. Because you’re bound to spend far longer arguing with someone about whether it was the Hutus who killed the Tsutsi’s or the Tsutsi’s who killed the Hutu’s with someone argumentative (like me) somewhere down the track.

Arbitrary Rating: 6.5/10

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