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Hotel Rwanda
cast: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte, Jeremiah Ndlovu, and Hakeem Kae-Kazim

director: Terry George

122 minutes (PG-13) 2004
widescreen ratio 16:9
MGM NTSC DVD Region 1 retail

RATING: 10/10
reviewed by Martin Drury
Hotel Rwanda borrows so much from the Greek classical tradition in its story that the film manages to make the same kind of hard-hitting, sit up and listen comment to society that theatre makes on a regular basis. News reports provide the 'chorus' part to the film, grounding the story of ten years ago and more in the conscience of the present day populous. This is a film of one man's courage in the face of an enemy that grows in number by the second. Racial hatred, thoughtless violence, the difference one man can make in the world, the role a family plays in a person's life and why families are all that matter when the world caves in around you, are all themes explored throughout this captivating, spellbinding film which leaves a lump in the throat. Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo are believable in their performances from the start and at no stage in the two-hour film does it even cross your mind that these are merely actors reading lines and following direction.

This film provides the perfect history lesson for schools as well as a moral lesson for society. It asks you to pay attention and taps you on the head with the loving tenderness of families and neighbourhoods supporting one another in the face of violence, before walloping you around the head with the blood, the dead bodies, the stench, the injustice, the aggression. You know it happened. What did you do when it happened for real? As the journalist says in the film: "I think people will look at this on the news, say how horrible it is and go on eating their dinner." Suspense is utilised to brilliant, brutal effect in this film and some moments have more horror within them than a Stephen King epic. Cheadle's hotel manager character assures everyone that everything is going to be all right, he calms the nerves and quiets the panic and then.... the lights go out and the sound of trucks bringing soldiers can be heard in the distance.

In this film, we see the media being used as a force to incite hatred amongst a people. The radio announcer calls for bloodshed just as Cheadle's character calls for calm, tolerance and compassion and throughout there is a war between a hotel manager thrust into a situation he would normally have run a mile from and a disembodied voice with a violent temper. The film is a rich illustration of history, current affairs, international failures, the power the past has over the present and the future and how easily a group of people can be divided from their homes, their families, their jobs and their loved ones.

The film is laced with an uneasy humidity within dialogue and something is always building, be it tension, aggression, an uneasy peace within the killing or an impending assault on a sanctuary of tolerance. The outside media and indeed the outside world are adrift from the main happenings in this film and the audience are pushed into a similar position if they are not prepared to pay attention to what they are shown, if they are not prepared to remember the images and do something with their lives to try and make sure nothing like what they see on screen can happen again. As the film closes, we hear the international world's excuses for inaction. We ignored their pain, their suffering and their deaths. The least we can do is watch this movie and remember.

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