- Hotel Rwanda
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Terry George Produced by Terry George Written by Keir Pearson
Starring Don Cheadle
Music by Afro Celt Sound System
Cinematography Robert Fraisse Editing by Naomi Geraghty Studio Lions Gate Entertainment
Distributed by United Artists
MGM Home Entertainment
Release date(s) December 22, 2004(Limited)
February 4, 2005 (Wide)
Running time 121 minutes Country United States Language English
Budget $17,500,000 Box office $33,882,243
Hotel Rwanda is a 2004 American drama film directed by Terry George. It was adapted from a screenplay written by both George and Keir Pearson. Based on real life events which took place in Rwanda during the spring of 1994, the film stars Don Cheadle as hotelier Paul Rusesabagina, who attempts to rescue his fellow citizens from the ravages of the Rwandan Genocide. Veteran actors Joaquin Phoenix, Nick Nolte and Jean Reno also star in principal roles. The film, which has been called an African Schindler's List, documents Rusesabagina's acts to save the lives of his family and more than a thousand other refugees, by granting them shelter in the besieged Hôtel des Mille Collines. Hotel Rwanda explores genocide, political corruption, and the repercussions of violence.
The film was a co-production between the motion picture studios of United Artists and Lions Gate Films. It was commercially distributed by United Artists theatrically, and by MGM Home Entertainment for home media. As an independent film, it had an initial limited release in theaters, but was nominated for multiple awards, including Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay. The film also won a number of awards including those from the Berlin and Toronto International Film Festivals. On January 11, 2005, the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released by the Commotion label. It features songs written by several recording artists including Wyclef Jean and Deborah Cox. The film score was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, Andrea Guerra and the Afro Celt Sound System.
Hotel Rwanda premiered in theaters in limited release in the United States on December 22, 2004 and in wide release on February 4, 2005 grossing $23,530,892 in domestic ticket sales. It earned an additional $10,351,351 in business through international release to top out at a combined $33,882,243 in gross revenue. The film was technically considered a moderate financial success after its theatrical run, and was generally met with positive critical reviews before its initial screening in cinemas. The widescreen DVD edition of the film featuring the director's audio commentary among others, was released in the United States on April 12, 2005.
Tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples lead to a war in Rwanda, where corruption and bribes between politicians are routine. Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), the manager of the Sabena Hôtel des Mille Collines is Hutu, but his wife Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), is Tutsi. His marriage is a source of friction with Hutu extremists, most prominently Georges Rutaganda (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), a friendly goods supplier to the hotel who is also the local leader of Interahamwe, a brutal anti-Tutsi militia.
As the political situation in the country worsens, Paul and his family observe neighbors being killed in ethnic violence. Paul curries favor with people of influence, bribing them with money and alcohol, seeking to maintain sufficient influence to keep his family safe. When civil war erupts and a Rwandan Army officer threatens Paul and his neighbors, Paul barely negotiates their safety, and brings everyone to the hotel. More refugees come to the hotel from the overburdened United Nations camp, the Red Cross, and orphanages. Paul must divert the Hutu soldiers, care for the refugees, be a source of strength to his family, and maintain the appearance of a functioning high-class hotel, as the situation becomes more violent.
The UN Peacekeeping forces, led by Canadian Colonel Oliver (Nick Nolte), are unable to take assertive action against the Interahamwe since they are forbidden to intervene in the genocide. The foreign nationals are evacuated, but the Rwandans are left behind. When the UN forces attempt to evacuate a group of refugees, including Paul's family, they are ambushed and must turn back. In a last-ditch effort to save the refugees, Paul pleads with the Rwandan Army General, Augustin Bizimungu (Fana Mokoena) for assistance. However, when Paul's bribes no longer work, he blackmails the General with threats of being tried as a war criminal. Soon after, the family and the hotel refugees are finally able to leave the besieged hotel in a UN convoy. They travel through retreating masses of refugees and militia to reach safety behind Tutsi rebel lines.
The film's epilogue displays a series of graphics stating that Rusesabagina saved 1,268 Rwandan refugees at the Hôtel des Mille Collines, and now lives in Belgium with his family. It also notes that Rutaganda and General Bizimungu were tried and convicted by the UN for war crimes in 2002, as almost a million people died by the time the genocide ended in July 1994.
Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina Sophie Okonedo as Tatiana Rusesabagina Nick Nolte as Colonel Oliver (based on Roméo Dallaire) Joaquin Phoenix as Jack Daglish Fana Mokoena as General Augustin Bizimungu Cara Seymour as Pat Archer Jean Reno as Sabena Airlines President Mr. Tillens (uncredited) Desmond Dube as Dube Hakeem Kae-Kazim as Georges Rutaganda Leleti Khumalo as Fedens Tony Kgoroge as Gregoire Antonio David Lyons as Thomas Mirama
The film is set in 1994 during the Rwandan Genocide; in which an estimated 800,000 people, mainly Tutsi, were killed by Hutu extremists. During that year, Rwanda’s population of seven million was composed of two major ethnic groups: Hutu (approximately 85%), and Tutsi (14%). In the early 1990s, Hutu extremists within Rwanda’s political elite blamed the entire Tutsi minority population for the country’s economic and political problems. Tutsi civilians were also accused of supporting a Tutsi-dominated rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front.
On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying President Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down. Following that incident, the genocide began. Hutu extremists belonging to the Interahamwe militia, launched plans to destroy the entire Tutsi civilian population. Tutsi and people suspected of being Tutsi were killed in their homes and as they tried to flee the country. It is estimated that some 200,000 people participated in the perpetration of the Rwandan genocide.
Hotelier Paul Rusesabagina of the Belgian owned luxury Hôtel des Mille Collines, used his power and influence to personally save both Tutsi and moderate Hutu refugees. Rusesabagina regularly bribed Rwandan Hutu soldiers and kept militias outside the hotel's property during the hundred days of killing. Following the carnage, Rusesabagina survived along with his wife and three children, as well as most of the refugees he sheltered. Sharing his thoughts about the lack of international intervention during the crisis, director George commented, "It's simple, ... African lives are not seen as valuable as the lives of Europeans or Americans." Attempting to share the horrors of the genocide, George sought to bring the story of Rusesabagina portrayed as a humanitarian during the relentless acts of violence.
Principal filming was shot on location in Kigali, Rwanda and Johannesburg, South Africa. Paul Rusesabagina was consulted during the writing of the film. Although the character of Colonel Oliver played by Nolte is fictional in nature, the role was inspired by the UN force commander for UNAMIR, Roméo Dallaire.
The producers of the film partnered with the United Nations Foundation to create the International Fund for Rwanda, which supported United Nations Development Programme initiatives assisting Rwandan survivors. “The goal of the film is not only to engage audiences in this story of genocide but also to inspire them to help redress the terrible devastation,” said director Terry George.
The original motion picture soundtrack for Hotel Rwanda, was released by the Commotion label on January 11, 2005. It features songs written by veteran musicians Wyclef Jean and Deborah Cox among others. The soundtrack also features the singing debut of musical artist Dorothee Munyaneza. The music for the film was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, Andrea Guerra and the Afro Celt Sound System; while being edited by Michael Connell.
Hotel Rwanda: Music From The Film Film score by Afro Celt Sound System and Rupert Gregson-Williams Released 1/11/2005 Length 49:25 Label Commotion Hotel Rwanda: Music From The Film No. Title Length 1. "Mama Ararira Pt. 1/Mama Ararira We!, Pt. 2" 3:41 2. "Mwali We!" 1:09 3. "Million Voices" 4:23 4. "Interhamwe Attack" 2:48 5. "Nobody Cares" 4:12 6. "Umqombothi (African Beer)" 4:53 7. "The Road to Exile" 4:47 8. "Whispered Song" 3:06 9. "Finale" 3:02 10. "Ambush" 2:49 11. "Ne Me Laisse Pas Seule Ici" 3:33 12. "Mwari Sigaramahoro" 2:22 13. "Olugendo Lw'e Bulaya" 5:54 14. "Children Found" 1:57 15. "Icyibo" 0:49Total length: 49:25
A paperback novel published by Newmarket Press titled Hotel Rwanda: Bringing the True Story of an African Hero to Film, was released on February 7, 2005. The book dramatizes the events of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, as depicted in the film. It expands on the ideas of how hotelier Paul Rusesabagina, sheltered and saved more than 1,200 people in the hotel he managed in Kigali. Rusesabagina's real life experience encouraged director George to produce the film. The book summarizes three years of research, articles that chronicle the historical events, and the ensuing aftermath. A brief history and timeline, the making of the film, and the complete screenplay written by Keir Pearson and Terry George are covered in thorough detail.
Among mainstream critics in the U.S., the film received almost exclusively positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 90% of 188 sampled critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 8.0 out of 10. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, the film received a score of 79 based on 40 reviews.
"With a PG-13 rating designed to get more viewers in the door, 'Hotel Rwanda' is surprisingly unbloody — we see more bodies than killings — and that robs the movie of an impact it could use. George makes his points with blunt force nevertheless." —Ty Burr, writing in The Boston Globe
Michael Rechtshaffen, writing in The Hollywood Reporter, said actor "Cheadle impressively carries the entire picture, delivering the kind of note-perfect performance that's absolutely deserving of Oscar consideration." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times called it a "riveting drama" while exclaiming, "The film works not because the screen is filled with meaningless special effects, formless action and vast digital armies, but because Cheadle, Nolte and the filmmakers are interested in how two men choose to function in an impossible situation. Because we sympathize with these men, we are moved by the film." In the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle wrote that the film was a "harrowing experience", and that "it documents for a mass audience what it was like. It's useful, in that it shows how it can happen. It's even hopeful, in that it shows that it's possible — not guaranteed, but possible — for people to maintain their humanity in the face of unhinged barbarism." Claudia Puig of USA Today, said the film was "one of the year's most moving and powerful films, anchored by a magnificent performance by Don Cheadle." She declared: "Hotel Rwanda emerges as an African version of Schindler's List." The film however, was not without its detractors. Dave Sterrit of The Christian Science Monitor, felt that although the subject matter was crucially important, he commented that "the movie dilutes its impact with by-the-numbers filmmaking, and Cheadle's one-note performance displays few of his acting gifts." Left equally unimpressed was Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly. Commenting on the character significance of the U.N. personnel, she said it was "a bad day for narrative, if not for diplomacy, when there is only one 3-D character among the entire U.N. lot, clad in their blue helmets, and that role is rasped by Nick Nolte with moral remorse rather than his more usual hint of dissolution." In her overall summation, she wrote "Hotel Rwanda is a strange history lesson that leaves us more overlectured than properly overwhelmed." Michael Atkinson of The Village Voice, added to the negativity by saying the film was "told to us secondhand, or glimpsed in distant scuffles" and "Like the majority of movies about the last century of holocausts, Hotel Rwanda is as earnest and tasteful as its creators. To capture the white-hot terror of social calamity, someone a little more lawless and fierce might be called for."
Writing for The New York Times, Stephen Holden said the film was "a political thriller based on fact that hammers every button on the emotional console." He commended how the film "offers a devastating picture of media-driven mass murder left unchecked" while also praising "Mr. Cheadle's magnificent, understated portrayal". James Berardinelli writing for ReelViews, called the film "powerful" and noted that it didn't "pull as many punches as its detractors would have us believe." Berardinelli also said the film was "brutal and shocking when it needs to be, but it also has great emotional scope and power. We find ourselves enmeshed in Paul's struggle, sharing his despair at the warfare tearing apart his country, his frustration and anger at the U.N.'s inability to act, and, eventually, his hope for a better tomorrow." Describing some pitfalls, Jeff Vice of the Deseret News said the "decision by the filmmakers to show things from that limited viewpoint — to show how isolated and fearful the characters were of the chaos going on around them — the film feels a little dishonest and diminished. It's never quite as effective as "The Killing Fields" or "Schindler's List" in that the film's overall impact is not as great and it doesn't linger in the memory." Vice however was quick to admit "Hotel Rwanda does have its share of powerful moments; in particular, a scene in which Paul and another hotel employee unknowingly — due to fog — drive into a mass grave." He also expressed satisfaction with the acting saying, "Cheadle brings a needed intensity to the film; his character's fear and compassion are quite vivid. Nolte is also good in his limited screen time, as is Joaquin Phoenix, who plays a news cameraman."
"[A] flat, cramped staging which, combined with d.p. Robert Fraisse's harsh overlighting, gives the film the feel of a cheap backlot production, even though it was shot on location." —Scott Foundas, writing for Variety
Eleanor R. Gillespie of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, stated that Hotel Rwanda was an "unforgettable film" as well as being "a doubly unforgettable performance by Don Cheadle." Although mentioning "The parallels with Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List are obvious", she praised individual cinematic elements that made the film unique, such as "the revelation of a dark, bumpy road paved with thousands of corpses. Or in a little girl's heartwrenching plea, 'Please don't let them kill me. I promise I won't be Tutsi anymore'." She concluded her review with Cheadle's noteworthy performance, saying he gave "one of the best performances (if not the best) of last year — an Oscar-worthy portrait of a man who kept his head clear and his humanity intact in the midst of a man-made hell." Similarly, David Ansen wrote in Newsweek that "two performances carry the film. Cheadle, in his richest role since "Devil in a Blue Dress", burrows deep inside this complex man, who discovers in himself a strength he never knew he possessed, as he faces the disillusionment of all the "civilized" notions he believes in. As his strong, committed wife, Tatiana, Sophie Okonedo, barely resembling the saucy hooker she played in "Dirty Pretty Things", is a revelation." However, in the Arizona Daily Star, Phil Villarreal was not moved by the lead acting of Cheadle or Nolte. He thought the characters were "cardboardish" and went further saying the "uplifting moments of rescue seem antiseptic and set up." Critic Leonard Maltin though, wrote that Hotel Rwanda was a "Powerful film" which he thought avoided being "overly didactic by focusing on one compelling character, believably brought to life by Cheadle."
The film was nominated and won several awards in 2004–05. Various critics included the film on their lists of the top 10 best films of 2004. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times named it ninth best, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle named it eighth best, and Desson Thomson of The Washington Post named it tenth best. The film is also listed by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 most inspirational movies of all time.
Award Category Nominee Result 77th Academy Awards Best Actor Don Cheadle Nominated Best Supporting Actress Sophie Okonedo Nominated Best Original Screenplay Keir Pearson, Terry George Nominated 2005 Berlin International Film Festival In Competition ———— Won Black Reel Awards of 2005 Best Actor in a Drama Don Cheadle Nominated Best Actress in a Drama Sophie Okonedo Won 59th British Academy Film Awards Best Original Screenplay Keir Pearson, Terry George Nominated Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards 2004 Best Picture ———— Nominated Best Actor Don Cheadle Nominated 62nd Golden Globe Awards Best Picture - Drama ———— Nominated Best Actor - Drama Don Cheadle Nominated Best Original Song Jerry Duplessis, Andrea Guerra, Wyclef Jean Nominated London Film Critics Circle Awards 2005 Best British Director Terry George Nominated Best Actor Don Cheadle Nominated Best British Supporting Actress Sophie Okonedo Nominated 2004 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Awards Best Picture ———— Nominated Online Film Critics Society Awards 2004 Best Actor Don Cheadle Nominated Producers Guild of America Awards 2004 Stanley Kramer Award ———— Won Golden Satellite Awards 2004 Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Don Cheadle Won 11th Screen Actors Guild Awards Best Ensemble Acting ———— Nominated Best Actor Don Cheadle Nominated Best Supporting Actress Sophie Okonedo Nominated 2004 Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Award ———— Won Writers Guild of America Awards 2004 Best Original Screenplay Keir Pearson, Terry George Nominated
The film premiered in cinemas on December 22, 2004 in limited release throughout the U.S.. During its limited opening weekend, the film grossed $100,091 in business showing at 7 locations. Its official wide release was screened in theaters on February 4, 2005. Opening in a distant 14th place, the film earned $2,316,416 showing at 823 cinemas. The film Boogeyman soundily beat its competition during that weekend opening in first place with $19,020,655. The film's revenue dropped by 11.8% in its second week of release, earning $2,043,249. For that particular weekend, the romantic comedy Hitch unseated Boogeyman to open in first place with $43,142,214 in revenue, while Hotel Rwanda remained in 14th place not challenging a top ten position. During its final weekend in release, the film opened in 62nd place grossing $23,176 in business. The film went on to top out domestically at $23,530,892 in total ticket sales through an 18-week theatrical run. Internationally, the film took in an additional $10,351,351 in box office business for a combined worldwide total of $33,882,243. For 2004 as a whole, the film would cumulatively rank at a box office performance position of 99.
Following its cinematic release in theaters, the film was released in VHS video format on April 12, 2005. The Region 1 Code widescreen edition of the film was also released on DVD in the United States on April 12, 2005. Special features for the DVD include; "A Message for Peace: Making Hotel Rwanda" documentary, "Return to Rwanda" documentary, Selected scenes commentary by Don Cheadle, Audio commentary by director Terry George and real-life subject of the film–Paul Rusesabagina, along with select commentary by musician Wyclef Jean. Currently, there is no scheduled release date set for a future Blu-ray Disc version of the film, although it is available in other media formats such as Video on demand.
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- Further reading
- Prunier, Gerard (2008). Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195374209.
- Melvern, Linda (2006). Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide. Verso. ISBN 978-1844675425.
- Ilibagiza, Immaculee (2009). Led By Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide. Hay House. ISBN 978-1401918880.
- Gourevitch, Philip (1999). We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. Picador. ISBN 978-0312243357.
- Lawrence, Tracey (2009). My Father, Maker of the Trees: How I Survived the Rwandan Genocide. Baker Books. ISBN 978-0801013201.
- Cruden, Alex (2010). Rwandan Genocide (Perspectives on Modern World History). Greenhaven Press. ISBN 978-0737750072.
- Wallis, Andrew (2007). Silent Accomplice: The Untold Story of France's Role in the Rwandan Genocide. I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1845112479.
- Waugh, Colin (2004). Paul Kagame and Rwanda: Power, Genocide and the Rwandan Patriotic Front. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0786419418.
- Laband, John (2006). Daily Lives of Civilians in Wartime Africa: From Slavery Days to Rwandan Genocide. Greenwood. ISBN 978-0313335402.
- Twagilimana, Aimable (2003). The Debris of Ham: Ethnicity, Regionalism, and the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. University Press of America. ISBN 978-0761825852.
- Taylor, Christopher (2001). Sacrifice as Terror: The Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Berg Publishers. ISBN 978-1859732786.
- Kroslak, Daniela (2007). The Role of France in the Rwandan Genocide. Hurst & Company. ISBN 978-1850658825.
- Keane, Fergal (1997). Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey. Penguin. ISBN 978-0140247602.
- Barnett, Michael (2003). Eyewitness to a Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0801488672.
- Willoquet-Maricondi, Paula (2010). Framing the World: Explorations in Ecocriticism and Film (Under the Sign of Nature). University of Virginia Press. ISBN 0813930057.
- O'Halloran, Kevin (2010). Pure Massacre: Aussie Soldiers Reflect on the Rwandan Genocide. Big Sky Publishing. ISBN 978-0980325188.
- Destexhe, Alain (1995). Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century. New York University Press. ISBN 978-0814718735.
- Chishugi, Leah (2010). A Long Way from Paradise: Surviving the Rwandan Genocide. Virago Press. ISBN 978-1844086573.
- Official website
- Hotel Rwanda at the Internet Movie Database
- Hotel Rwanda at AllRovi
- Hotel Rwanda at Rotten Tomatoes
- Hotel Rwanda at Metacritic
- Hotel Rwanda at Box Office Mojo
Films directed by Terry George 1990sSome Mother's Son (1996) · A Bright Shining Lie (1998) 2000sHotel Rwanda (2004) · Reservation Road (2007)
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