Almost three years after I first watched this film, I bought the dvd last weekend when the price dropped to $4.99 in the stores.

As most of you may be aware, ‘Hotel Rwanda’ is based on real life events that occurred during the period of the Rwandan Genocide in April 1994. It is the story of a courageous man – a hotel manager, who, against all odds, toiled single-handedly and saved the lives of over a thousand helpless Tutsi refugees (and some moderate Hutus) trapped during their struggles against Hutu militia. In just about three months, the militia exterminated close to a million people – and while there was mayhem in Rwanda, the rest of the world was oblivious to it all, and had certainly not heard of Paul Rusesabagina. In 1994, the world was busy getting wired up for the www!

Not too far back then, less than a year prior to these real-life horrific events – in 1993 – the world had watched Steven Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’. This was also the story of a shrewd German businessman – Schindler – who, with the assistance of Itzhak Stern – another businessman but Jewish, saved over a thousand lives from the gas chambers of Krakow, the Ghetto in Auschwitz, and from the wrath of psychopath Amon Goeth.

My memory also rewinds to one particular film review I’d read about Hotel Rwanda – written by a renowned critic, Subhash K Jha. Three years ago, I was infuriated by the lapses (I’ve highlighted the lines below) in his review. I wrote to the editor of the online paper then. That link seems to have vanished, but sad to say, his review is now on another site. I’m going to cut-paste it here. It irks me to think that reviewers such as him can get away with a faux pas as grave as this one!

Subhash K Jha
Movie
Hotel Rwanda
Director
Terry George
Cast
Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Joaquin Phoenix, Nick Nolte, Jean Reno

By Subhash K Jha
Rating: ***1/2

There’s an element of Steven Spielberg’s Schindler`s List in this lingering brutal beautiful elegy to the spirit of edifying humanism.

Hotel Rwanda is a stunningly authentic recreation of events in Africa in 1994 when the Hutu tribe annihilated nearly a million Tutsis.

Genocide jostles with a spanking adventure story in this astonishingly well-crafted human drama, filled with horrific sites of carnage that are brilliantly balanced by unforgettable acts of heroism.

The hero, in the truest sense of the word, is Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) whose valour could qualify as the single most valiant effort to rise above perspnal interests seen in cinema.

As Paul shelters family, friends and strangers in the civil-riots stricken Rwanda, director Terry George ekes out an unnerving yet gripping tale that keeps us riveted from first to last.

Nowhere does the narrative sacrifice its quality of documentation for the sake of holding on to the audience. The sincerity and grit with which the director slices through a slice of horrifying history is so deep and deft, you are left gaping at wounds that can never heal… but with a feeling of elevating hope attached to every welter of cruelty that fate and human nature serves up for the weak and vulnerable.

Standing at the center of this tale of compelling redemption is the figure of Paul. An amazingly complex compendium of emotions needed to be expressed. Don Cheadle proves himself one of the finest actors of our time. He imbues the good samaritan’s role with a kind of mellow frenzy and a street-smart wisdom that helps him to obtain survival for a mass of people.

The role and the film are eminently comparable with Ralph Fiennes and Schindler’s List. Fiennes played the man who saved many Nazi lives from the holocaust as a cool customer. Cheadle’s character and performance are far more involved ….and evolved. His breakdown sequence after he runs into a killing field strewn with the bodies of slain Tutsis, or the time when he implores his wife to jump off the roof if push comes to shove, is so real, it makes our hairs stand on edge.

To ensure that the film gets a sizeable audience the director has constructed the plot as a spiral of suspense. We cannot but applaud the film for treading into documented territory without losing its way in a maze of facts and polemical arguments.

Some portions of the narrative get way too aggravated in tone to be anything but cinema. But all said and done Hotel Rwanda serves a cinematic purpose far more diligently and cogently than most of the films that provide entertainment at the cost of history’s casualty.

In the same league as Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, Roman Polanski’s The Piano and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black, Hotel Rwanda is an ode to the spurit of survival, fashioned with such fetching candour, you get sucked into the strife and emerge from it with a deep sigh about the quality of life.

Sure, humanbeings tend to cause violence against their own kind. But at the end of it all there is always hope. Source: Sify


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