Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sean Kelly

Blindspot 2015: 40 Years of TIFF: Hotel Rwanda

The People's Choice Award for the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival went to Terry George's drama Hotel Rwanda. The film went on to be nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Don Cheadle, Best Supporting Actress for Sophie Okonedo, and Best Original Screenplay.

Taking place under the backdrop of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Hotel Rwanda tells the story of hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina (Cheadle). As the Hutu majority began a mass slaughter of the Tutsi, Paul and his family takes refuge in the Hôtel des Mille Collines. When more Tutsi refuges begin arriving at the hotel, Paul does everything he can to protect them from the genocide.

A very easy description of Hotel Rwanda is that it is a more or less a Rwandan Schindler's List. Hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina risks everything to protect as many refuges as possible during this horrible genocide, which left about a million Rwandans dead. The film delves a little bit into the feud between  Hutu and Tutsi peoples, which lead to the genocide. This includes a recurring propaganda radio broadcast, which describes the minority Tutsi as cockroaches that need to be exterminated.

One thing I noticed immediately about Hotel Rwanda is that it has a very upbeat opening. I suppose this is a way to lure viewers in with a false security, before the atrocities of the genocide begin. Hotel Rwanda opts to keep the slaughter itself off-camera for the most part, even though there is glimpses through news footage and a scene where Paul comes across a road full of thousands of dead bodies.

Hotel Rwanda is built nearly entirely upon the performance of Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina, who does everything that he can to protect his family and other refuges at the hotel. The film also features Nick Nolte as the UN Peacekeeper helping to protect the hotel, even though he is not allowed to directly intervene in the genocide. There is also a brief appearance in the first half of the film by Joaquin Phoenix as a news cameraman, who is one of the first to capture footage of the genocide.

Hotel Rwanda is a solid drama about this horrible moment in history. I am surprised that the film didn't get more awards attention that year, with it only getting nomination for the performances and screenplay. I would expect that if Hotel Rwanda was released today it would likely be included in the larger pool of Best Picture nominees.

 ★ ★ ★ ★ | LIKED IT 

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).