Movie Review: HOTEL RWANDA (2004) – A Tragic Episode In Human History

Published by Shah Shahid on

Not much commentary for this old review I wrote years ago as well. I think I rant enough in the review itself. This movie made me very bitter about my fellow human… just tragic is all.

Rating: 5 Out Of 5 Stars

For centuries man has reigned supreme over the world. For millennia man has proven his superiority over all other creatures on this earth. And for the exact same amount of time, man has been hell-bent on destroying each other in every way possible, for every reason imaginable; and some of those reasons are beyond anything I could have ever thought up of, even if I was trying to be creative while on acid.

One the best proven method that has been used extremely generously throughout history for men to eradicate other men has been the method of discrimination based on differences. Granted after centuries of slaughter based on differences alone, you’d think man would have become a little more creative in his reasons for murder, genocide, butchering innocents, and what-not, but why mess with something that works?

Imagine being arbitrarily placed within ethnic groups based on your chosen career, be it agricultural or administrative, with the pretence of the divide being due to physical differences. Now imagine being slaughtered solely because of your ethnicity—which a group of people previously categorized at their whim mind you—by people who were subjected to the same separation into ethnic groups as yourself. Now imagine close to a million of your people being slaughtered within a matter of months, and two more million being left homeless and forcefully driven out of their towns. Imagine…

April 1994, a tragic plane crash set in motion a chain of events that resulted in the death of 800,000 citizens of Rwanda, in east-central Africa. HOTEL RWANDA captures this massacre on film and retells what happened from the point of view of the manager of a hotel that became more of a haven for the rest of the city during the slaughter.

A cruel and heinous crime, told with emotional depth and graphic storytelling is what HOTEL RWANDA is essentially about. A no holds-barred look at a truth that almost went ignored for 10 years by the world.

In his first ever commercial feature length film, director Terry George, strikes a resounding chord that reverberates through the hearts of the audience and causes one to be extremely enraged and think critically about the world in which we live; censored and edited by the media which becomes, in a way, the middle man between the truth and what the powers that be want us to know. Not an astounding feat for someone like George, who is an experienced documentary filmmaker along with having a few short stints in Television. HOTEL RWANDA allows him to come out into the light with an incredibly tragic piece.

After the monumental success of CRASH, the executive producer / actor of 2005’s Best Film Oscar recipient, Don Cheadle gives quite possibly the best performance of his career as a reluctant hotel manager, trying to keep his family safe while also having to bow down to the forces that blow through the country slaughtering innocents. After being seen in various character and comic roles in films such as SWORDFISH, OCEAN’S 11 & 12, RUSH HOUR, BOOGIE NIGHTS, etc, Cheadle comes out with a performance that has put him on the map both commercially and critically.

The brilliance with which Cheadle portrays a reluctant man doing anything and everything he can to save whoever he can, while trying his hardest not to upset the delicate balance in the city that threatens to destroy everything around him, is Oscar worthy, despite the fact that it went completely unnoticed. The restraint shown by Cheadle’s Paul is heartbreaking; to see a man who is constantly threatened, and has to deal with the pressure of being responsible for countless lives, while also having to fear for his own loved ones… is almost, awe-inspiring yet at the same time emotionally draining. Cheadle gives soul and tears to a character with such humanity while having to be two faced at the same time and attempting to delay the inevitable, hold off the knock of death for countless refugees at his doorstep. A performance such as one by Don Cheadle in HOTEL RWANDA has to, and will end up becoming one of those roles in films history that becomes nothing short of legendary. Although, knowing the industry and the masses’ ignorance towards films of actual virtue—especially ones that allow us to pull the wool from off our eyes and witness the truth in our world and judge humanity based on our actions as a species—it’ll be surprising if HOTEL RWANDA spends more than 5 years in the hearts and minds of industry.

Despite exhibiting the true horror of what went unnoticed by the world 10 years ago, HOTEL RWANDA is also able to give us a perspective into acts of Genocide from a never before imaginable standpoint; through the eyes of one man who struggles to fight back his blood soaked tears and be a pillar of strength for a people being hunted down by their own country-men. One has to wonder while experiencing HOTEL RWANDA, how much this film fully captures the true feelings of people who witness injustices, murder or even war. This film makes one go through the helpless-ness some must feel while they watch their own people get butchered, the desperation of trying to save one’s loved ones and the struggle of trying to stay alive themselves.

Rwanda was an incredible tragedy during which millions were murdered. Shocking… yes. Unheard of… no. Even today there are hundreds of thousands of people being killed, murdered, hunted and forced to leave their homelands… due to nothing more than religious bickering, the prospect of power, monetary gains, and brutally primitive strong arm tactics in order to flex one’s muscles and show strength to neighbouring nations and the rest of the world; and a lot more brilliantly stupid reasons that escape my logical comprehension. All this happens within the tightly wound web of interconnectivity that we as a global people have weaved over the years through technology that is supposed to bind us together and bring us closer. Yet within this ‘Brady Bunch’ togetherness we somehow seem to be completely and utterly ignorant to crimes happening in nations beyond our reach. Seems the search for truth is only a viable option for today’s media when it’s beneficial to all parties involved, including the ones seeking the truth.

A supposedly civilized world we live in, where international affairs are nothing more than a segment of the evening news; where local matters are of precedence despite the fact that across the sea there are hundreds and thousands being butchered while their rivers are brimming with the dead. We live in a society where the majority of our information regarding foreign affairs comes from sources which over the years, have been corporatized and whose sole objective has strayed from being the pursuit of truth through journalism, but has evolved into turning a profit—by any means necessary.

It’s infuriating to live in a world where governments go hunting for natural resources and forcefully occupy nations, under the guise of the liberation of innocents, while causing the deaths of those same ‘innocents’ and then considering the lives of their own citizens expendable during the entire outing. It’s enraging to be a part of the same species whose idea of living in peace is to build and conceptualize deadly weapons and plot out scenarios for death and destruction on a catastrophic scale. But then again, what more can we expect from a world that continues to turn a blind eye to various heinous acts of Genocide and ethnic cleansing all in favour of maintaining diplomatic relations and beauracratic comradery…

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Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad


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