Hotel Rwanda could be called an African version of Schindler's List since it is about a man who saves the lives of more than a thousand people during a civil war between two tribes in his country. It is a powerful, moving and intense film that shines light on both the merciless and the humane nature of man.
Paul(Don Cheadle) is the manager of a 5-star hotel in Kigali, Rwanda. He is someone who knows how to keep everyone happy, whether they are important guests or the local police. When the peace between the Hutus and the Tutsis breaks down, the Hutus begin exterminating all Tutsi people. Paul's hotel, which he calls "an oasis of peace", becomes home to many Tutsis running away from the carnage.
What happens in Rwanda is universal (something similar is happening in Iraq even today). As friends turn into foes, neighbors become enemies and employees become traitors, we are witnesses to people turning into animals. And the historical reason behind this division of Rwanda's people into two tribes is so trivial that if it weren't so sad, it would be funny.
The film is more a story of one man rather than the examination of a tragedy. We see the events only as they affect Cheadle and this gives the movie a personal touch. Since we come to care about Cheadle and his family, there are some heart-stopping moments as they get caught in dangerous situations. And Cheadle's transformation itself is fascinating. He is a man who initially refuses to intervene on behalf of a neighbor since he might some day need to cash in his favors to save his own family. But as the movie proceeds, he becomes ready to separate himself from the same family to be with people he barely knows. We learn that just as war brings out the animal in some people, it also brings out the human being in others.
Hotel Rwanda is non-violent inspite of its subject and a few longshots of massacres and fleeting glimpses of corpses are all we get (it is rated PG-13). But it manages to convey the horror of the happenings inspite of this. The atmosphere of hatred and fear is conveyed succintly through those who are alive rather than those who are dead. The film proves that words can be just as powerful as images. Two conversations in particular, one where an American peacekeeper describes a massacre and one which Cheadle has with his wife regarding their actions if he dies, are horrific and make us conjure up images worse than anything that could be shown onscreen. But the movie ends on a positive note and has the perfect closing shot and line.
Do not miss!