During 100 terrifying days in 1994, nearly 1 million people died in a horrific Genocide in Rwanda, as the ruling members of the Hutu tribe began a calculated effort to wipe out the Tutsi minority.
This unholy act of inhumanity was compounded by the fact that the world stood silently by and did nothing to intervene.
The film “Hotel Rwanda” is based on an actual event that occurred during that terrible time, the attempt of one man – a hotel manager named Paul Rusesabagina -- to save as many people as possible.
Rusesabagina, played magnificently by Don Cheadle, managed to save the lives of 1,268 people as he risked everything in an uncommon act of courage. (The hotelier, who’s still alive, served as a consultant to the movie.)
He was the manager of the Hotel Mille Collines, a Belgian-owned resort in Kigali, Rwanda. Adept at servicing the needs and egos of the rich and powerful, both European and Rwandan, he was at first reluctant to realize the enormity of the situation.
Early in the film, as the mindless massacres are just beginning, Rusesabagina meets a cynical Western journalist, Jack, played with quiet intensity by Joaquin Phoenix. Jack has captured video footage showing the rampant savagery taking place across the country. Rusesabagina is elated -- sure that this footage will bring help and intervention from around the world.
Jack knows better.
“If people see this footage, they’ll say, ‘Oh my God, that’s terrible,’ and they’ll go on eating their dinners,” he tells Rusesabagina.
As the vicious violence accelerates and the Europeans flee the country, Rusesabagina, who is a Hutu, takes his Tutsi wife Tatiana (played by Sophie Okonedo of “Dirty Pretty Things”) and their children to the relative safety of the hotel. Soon, relatives and neighbours join their ranks.
Every day the number of desperate people seeking shelter increases – at one point a busload of orphans shows up – and Rusesabagina finds himself in the role of protector and leader to these terrified and suddenly homeless masses. His tenuous connection with a Hutu general – forged during his days as the manager of the luxury hotel – is the only thing keeping them all alive.