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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Movie Review: Hotel Rwanda 

In school I remember learning about the Holocaust. It's covered in every 20th century history course, and as it's also supplemented by popular culture (films such as Schindler's List, Life is Beautiful and The Pianist, or the "Why We Fight" episode of Band of Brothers), history has burned the horrors of the Holocaust into America's collective conscience.

Perhaps that is why it takes a film such as Hotel Rwanda to open eyes about a similar genocidal episode. The civil war between the Hutus and Tutsis occured just a decade ago. I remember watching the coverage on "Channel One" while in high school, thinking how awful it must be over there. But not until I saw the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, Rwanda's own Oskar Schindler, did it register.

Don Cheadle, in his most powerful role to date, portrays Rusesabagina, a Hutu hotel manager. When Hutu militias embark on an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Tutsis, Rusesabagina ultimately saves more than 1100 Tutsi refugees, stowing them in his hotel, while bribing local military officers to assist in their protection.

Hotel Rwanda's conflict between hope and despair takes the face of Cheadle, whose character starts out with only his family in mind before risking his own live to spare his countrymen. The brutal atrocities and seemingly senseless murders will both break your heart and make you question the true nature of mankind. At the same time, however, the actions of people like Rusesabagina remind us that there is good in the world, and that means there is hope for us all.



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