Hotel Rwanda is a 2004 historical drama sometimes referred to as an African Schindler's List, with good reason. It tells the true story of Paul Rusesabagina (played by Don Cheadle) during the Rwandan genocide. Paul was a successful Hutu businessman who managed the five-star Hôtel des Mille Collines, and hid and protected refugees there.The Rwandan genocide started when the Tutsi fell out of the power they had been assigned by the Belgians, who used to control their country. The darker-skinned Hutus (the majority the of Rwandan population) were once considered inferior. Hutu extremists felt that the Tutsi were their oppressors and needed to be wiped out completely. Paul finds himself in no real danger because he is a Hutu, but his Tutsi wife Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo) is. After doing business with the very same Hutu extremists and witnessing horrific things done to his wife's people, Paul decides that he must do something about it and not let his neighbors and friends die. Refugees and orphans came to seek shelter in the Mille Collines hotel, and this powerful movie recounts that story.It's cited as one of the most inspirational movies of all time. Paul Rusesabagina was contacted for help with writing the film.
Tropes used by the film:
The Alcoholic: General Bizimungu. Therefore, easily bribed with good scotch.
Artistic License - History: In reality, Paul's wife understood, if reluctantly, why he had to stay behind to protect the people sheltering in the hotel.
Badass Pacifist: Paul. It's one thing to stand up to psychotic, blood-crazed mobs when you're an armed ass-kicker. It's another thing altogether to do it when you're a hotel manager armed only with an iron backbone and wits.
Big Damn Heroes: The closest you'll get in a movie so dark despite being commented on as not being dark as the real thing. As the hotel refugees are leaving by way of UN-emblazoned transports, a swarm of Hutu militiamen are seen on the road ahead. Colonel Oliver is armed with a pistol, and he does nothing but cock it and order them to 'Keep driving.' Then, against what seems to be a building Downer Ending, a group of Tutsi rebels emerge from the nearby foliage and open fire, giving the trucks a way to pass through.
Bilingual Bonus: The hotel "Mille Collines", which means "the thousand hills", is another name for the country Rwanda.
Determinator: Paul does absolutely everything in his power and then some to guarantee the survival of his family and the other refugees.
Category Traitor: Paul is viewed as one by Georges Rutaganda and many other Hutu extremists, due to his marriage to a Tutsi woman and his reluctance to partake in Hutu supremacist activities.
Dirty Coward: Those Hutu like Gregoire who didn't actively take part in the genocide but were happy to take advantage of it. And basically the rest of the world as well - for example through the UN security council's painfully obvious loophole abuse to prevent the genocide being recognized as a genocidenote It was so ridiculous that former President Clinton, in 2004, traveled to Rwanda and apologized for failing the country so completely.
Rather more subverted in real life, as even though Paul did everything in his power, Tatiana's mother, father, four nieces and nephews, and four of Paul's own brothers and sisters were brutally slaughtered. Tatiana's father had to pay the soldiers to shoot him instead of slowly lopping off his limbs one at a time. And even after the genocide, Paul's actions earned him so many death threats that he was forced to move to Belgium with his family.
Foreshadowing: At the start of the film, Paul goes to pick up some supplies from Rutaganda. It's a fairly casual exchange. One of the forklift operators brings a load of crates and Rutaganda shouts that it's the wrong one. When the operator reverses the machine, the top crate falls off and splits open on the ground. It's full of machetes.
Heroic BSOD: Paul has one shortly after driving on a road covered with hundreds of mutilated corpses. It's the first moment when he's alone after the genocide begins.
Colonel Oliver has one when he finds out the U.N. soldiers aren't going to protect the refugees or help them get out of the country.
In Real Life, apparently many UNAMIR soldiers had this. After finding out that they were ordered to withdraw, they would burn their caps in shamenote While he doesn't talk about it much in his book about the genocide, General Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general in charge of the peacekeeping force at the time, tried to kill himself at least once, possibly as many as 3 times, as a result of the inhumanity he saw in Rwanda, and he lays the blame squarely on the UN (specifically the French and the Americans) for not only refusing to act, but actively preventing his forces from stopping the genocide.
Historical Villain Downgrade: General Bizimungu. In the film, he's portrayed as only motivated by self-interest; while uninterested in protecting Tutsis unless Paul is paying him to do so, he also shows no particular desire to see them dead, unlike other Hutu officers. He also adamantly insists to Paul that he did not commit any atrocities when he has no obvious reason to lie. The real life Bizimungu, however, did indeed lead massacres.
History Repeats: A rather sobering example in the opening to the film, which includes the radio clip "President Clinton voiced concern at the deteriorating situation in Sarajevo...", alluding to the Bosnian War, which occurred only a few short years before the Rwandan genocide.
Honest Corporate Executive: Paul's boss in Belgium, Mr. Tillens, who is horrified by the genocide does what he can to help Paul and the refugees, notably doing more than his nation's actual government to help.
Improbable Weapon User: Subverted; Paul finds his wife and family hiding in a shower, wielding a shower hose as a weapon. He even points out, "What were you going to do with this?!" especially since the water was turned off by that point.
Les Collaborateurs: One of Paul's hotel employees is a virulent Hutu partisan who tells the militia about the location of the Tutsi refugees.
Reality Is Unrealistic: According to the real Paul Rusesabagina, the level of violence was downplayed for the film, saying "You couldn't invite someone to watch the real thing."
Many other survivors of the genocide have agreed with him about the violence being much worse in Real Life.
For starters, the vast War Rape was only indicated, and they never showed how the militia used to mutilate people. The movie probably would have had a very different rating if they'd shown anything more than the tip of the iceberg.
Rape as Drama: Happens to the Tutsi women and girls captured by Rutaganda and his militiamen. Unfortunately, this is very much Truth in Television, since this was not only institutionalised but encouraged by the militias and militiary. One survivor of the genocide reported being raped more than 5 times a day while the men stood around and watched.
Jack: "I think if people see this footage, they'll say oh my God, that's horrible. And then they'll go on eating their dinners."note Sadly, in Real Life, that is exactly what happened.
Thanatos Gambit: It's theorized that the assassinated President Habyarimana did this so it would give his followers an excuse for committing the genocide (which was pre-planned). The movie takes this angle.
George Rutaganda: "Cut the tall trees. Cut the tall trees now!"
Also, Colonel Oliver's dejected exchange with Paul when he finds out that the West is refusing to do anything to prevent the genocide, utterly crushing Paul's hopes of stopping the nightmare
Colonel Oliver: You should spit in my face, Paul.
Paul: Excuse me, Colonel?
Colonel Oliver: You're dirt, we think you're dirt, Paul.
Paul: Who is we?
Colonel Oliver: The west, all the superpowers, everything you believe in Paul, they think you're dirt, they think you're dung, you're worthless.
Paul: I'm afraid I do not understand what you're saying, sir.
Colonel Oliver: Don't bullshit me, Paul, you're the smartest guy here. You have them all eating out of your hand. You'd own this fucking hotel, except for one thing. You're black. You're not even a nigger. You're an African. They're not gonna stay, Paul. They're not gonna stop the slaughter.
White Man's Burden: Partially invoked and completely averted. A few white international characters are introduced as being disturbed and wanting to help with the situation in Rwanda. Once the UN makes the order to ship them out, though, they prove to be ineffective.
Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": The UN refused to call it a genocide, despite obvious evidence that the Tutsi population was being massacrednote More people were killed faster in Rwanda than in World War 2: 1,174,000 dead in 100 days, 10,000 murdered every day, 400 every hour, 7 every minute. Definitely a cowardly form of Loophole Abuse.
The Insistent Terminology on the part of the US government, the UN, etc. was a lot more cynical than it seems on face. International law on genocide requires all parties to intervene to prevent or punish genocide. If they called it genocide, they'd have to do something about it.
Sadly, the UN is still screwing over Rwanda: after finally admitting that genocide had taken place, their International War Tribunal has only processed 10 people in 18 years.