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A forgotten story is finally remembered


Photo
PHOTO COURTESY OF UNITED ARTISTS
"Hotel Rwanda" - Don Cheadle stars in "Hotel Rwanda," which tells the story of a hotel that isn't very fun to stay at. Cheadle has been nominated for an Oscar for his performance, as has co-star Sophie Okonedo.
By Celeste Meiffren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 27, 2005
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Hotel Rwanda: 8/10

Ten years ago a million people were killed in Rwanda. The world turned its back on an entire population as an intended genocide broke out. "Hotel Rwanda" takes the hard road and genuinely looks at both sides of this modern-day holocaust through the true story of one man's willingness to help thousands of refugees.

Don Cheadle plays Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu hotel manager in Rwanda. He is married to a Tutsi, Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo of "Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls"). The Hutus resent the Tutsis because of their history of privilege and power. Rusesabagina, like many Rwandans, no longer lives by these divisions and gives no weight to them.

One day, the Hutu guerilla army rises up against the Tutsis. They go from home to home and kill Tutsi men, women and children with machetes and burn their homes to the ground. Since Rusesabagina is Hutu, he had some power in the conflict. His main concern was to save his Tutsi wife and children. Though (somewhat) successful in doing so, he decided to save as many people as possible until the United Nations would step in to deal with the conflict. The United Nations never came, and Rusesabagina was left to find a way to keep thousands of refugees alive in the hotel in which he once worked.

This is a heartbreaking film. It would be gut-wrenching merely as fiction, but the fact that these events actually took place in the last decade makes it more palpable and devastating to watch.

"Hotel Rwanda" feels like a documentary. It is very fast paced and thrilling, and shot with grainy film on location. It pushes you to the edge of your seat after the first half-hour, and you remain there until the credits roll. There is no lull in the action or in the terror.

This film is rated PG-13. Given the subject matter, one would expect there to be extremely graphic violence. Director Terry George decided to dial down the violence and focused on psychological aspects of the struggle, as opposed to physical, though the threat of physical violence was always in the forefront of the picture. This makes the story more accessible.

Don Cheadle plays Rusesabagina with poise and dignity. His acting is never visible, so it is easy to be immersed into the story. He acts every scene with such natural grace that one is forced to wonder why he isn't carrying more films.

With so many biopics coming out this year, it is nice to see one that is not only a great movie, but one that many people should see. Paul Rusesabagina deserves this movie not just because of what he was able to accomplish, but because his story holds the legacy of a forgotten genocide in a world that was not willing to step in and help.



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