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When the Rwandan president’s plane gets shot down, supposedly by Tutsie rebels, the Hutu groups rise and start a massacre among their compatriate Tutsies. In the midst of all this is a five-star hotel run by a Belgian group, where (Hutu) manager Paul sees himself in the role of hotel director, refugee camp director, diplomat, and potential victim at the same time (having a Tutsie wife and not being a fanatic “cockroaches” hater get everybody in danger). While the international community hesitates and finally refuses to intervene, more and more attacks are being launched against the hotel, where supplies and bribery resources slowly run out.

In principle, you know this kind of film. African or South-American civil war situation, human rights being violated by all parties, ignorance of the world in the face of the atrocities, and a brave individual in the midst of it, struggling to survive and help as many as (s)he can. That is to say: it is pretty tricky to make a surprising and thrilling movie out of the setting, because you have seen it so often. While it will more or less automatically be touching (not the least because at some point, the “based on true events” will get inserted), a routine feeling seeps in. “Hotel Rwanda”, through a combination of excellent acting, well-developed narration, and the sheer magnitude of the events scorching Rwanda in the 1990s, the incredible level of inhumanity plus the cunning preparations leading up to the murders of a million people (only indicated in the movie by a crate of machetes that shows up early in the film, before any assassinations could have stirred the “sudden” outburst of violence) adding power, can avoid this. An excellent film, great craftsmanship on part of director, production designers, photography, and cast, grants a vivid glimpse into the events during what probably was the biggest massacres of the 20th century. There is no over-dramatization, but mostly the atmosphere of helplessness, of very few options being left apart from calling the European parent company and saying thank you for past support before one gets killed. The film also encourages to learn more about the events of around 1994, and once one gets started with this, the ignorance and paralysis of the rich world becomes only more stunning. Maybe a new member in the club of great all-time civil war films, sitting next to “Salvador”, “Cry Freedom” and “The Killing Fields”.

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