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Ordinary people, your average bankers, waitresses and hotel managers, tend to get overlooked, because, well, they’re ordinary. They are just like the person standing next to them.
The movie, “Hotel Rwanda,” dispels this conventional thought. It proves that the average man and woman can actually be far from ordinary, they can be extraordinary.
The movie focuses on Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a manager of a posh hotel in Kigali, Rwanda. At the beginning of the film, things are going well for Paul’s wife Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), Paul and their children. Paul’s success as a hotel manager has secured the family a place in the upper-middle class.
Plus, they are a close knit-family; Tatiana’s brother and sister-in-law and their daughters spend a lot of time with the Rusesabaginas.
Yet something terrible brews and leaks into every crevice of Paul’s and his family’s life. The toxic poison spills out over the whole country and forces Paul, his family and about 1,200 others to seek refuge at the hotel where Paul works.
After being ruled by the Tutsi tribe while Rwanda was under Belgium control, many members of the Hutu tribe seize their revenge through genocide. As a result, the challenge to see if the hotel is truly “the oasis in the desert,” as it claimed to be, begins.
Throughout this challenge, some people like Paul and Col. Oliver (Nick Nolte) rise up and become heroes. They have a few scraps of resources and assistance, but with their intelligence, courage and heart, these men and many others in the movie, save lives.
Unfortunately, there are others, who out of fear, only run away. There’s a magnificent scene in the movie when the UN has only allowed the rich, white foreigners the means to flee out of the country that is rapidly plunging in the chaos.
The scene shows the lucky few staring out of the tour busses’ windows at the Rwandans who have been abandoned at the hotel. One man holds up his camera to take a picture.
When it came out in 2004, “Hotel Rwanda” was nominated for several Oscars, including best actor, best supporting actress and best original screenplay. It’s easy to see why, the acting is superb and a story about ordinary people making an incredible difference never gets old.
According to Roger Ebert’s review, the film did receive some criticism that it focused too much on Paul’s efforts and not on the genocide, which actually did occur in 1994; at least 500,000 Tutsis were murdered. But that is the point. The film proves just how much can be accomplished when people take action against atrocities, and with all the horrors going on in the world today, we need all the motivation we can get.
Ah, you might think, but it’s just a movie – pure fiction. Think again. Paul Rusesabagina is a real person and his story is true.
“Hotel Rwanda” will screen at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Mesa Public Library. The screening is part of Mesa Public Library’s Free Film Series.