Follow TV Tropes


Film / Hotel Rwanda

Go To

Hotel Rwanda is a 2004 historical drama film directed and co-written by Terry George that tells the true story of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a successful businessman who managed the five-star Hôtel des Mille Collines, and hid and protected refugees there during the Rwandan genocide.

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 of the Rwandan population) were once considered inferior. Hutu extremists felt that the Tutsi were their oppressors and needed to be wiped out completely.

Paul is 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 film recounts that story.

The film is cited as one of the most inspirational of all time, and is also sometimes referred to as an African Schindler's List, with good reason. The real 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.
  • Armies Are Evil: The Hutu army certainly is this.
  • 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.
  • Ax-Crazy: Heavily implied with Georges Rutaganda. After allying himself with the genocidal Interahambwe militia and becoming a leading figure, he runs a prison camp at his warehouse where he has kidnapped Tutsi women kept as sex slaves. When telling Paul to take the river road back to the hotel, Paul finds it littered with hundreds of dead Tutsis, a massacre that Georges lead and just came back from.
  • 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.
  • Based on a True Story: But dramatized for the sake of the movie.
  • Big Bad Friend: At first, Paul seem to get along fine with Rutaganda despite the latter's extreme views. After the genocide starts, Paul know what kind of monster Georges is and only decides to trade with him out of necessity.
  • 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 Interahamwe militiamen are seen on the road ahead. Colonel Oliver is armed only 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.
  • Big "NO!": Paul lets out several when RTLM broadcasts the location of the UN convoy carrying many of the people staying at the hotel, including his wife and children.
  • Bigot with a Crush: Played very darkly. The Hutu militia led by Georges Rutaganda plans of wiping out the country's Tutsi population, but not before keeping the women as Sex Slaves in cages for a while.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The hotel "Mille Collines", which means "the thousand hills", is another name for the country Rwanda.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A fairly obvious case. True to history, Paul and his family make it to safety along with the rest of the hotel refugees; Sadly however, nearly a million Rwandans were not as fortunate by the time the violence was stopped.
  • Blackmail:
    • Paul's employee Gregoire does this to Paul to use the Presidential Suite at the Milles Collines and avoid having to do any real work, lest he inform the Interahamwe that Paul was sheltering Tutsis at the hotel.
    • Paul resorts to using this on General Bizimungu after his bribes stop working in order to force Bizimungu to protect the innocent people at the hotel from the wrath of the Interahamwe; he reminds Bizimungu that the United Nations have him listed as a war criminal. Though Bizimungu counters by saying that he didn't commit any war crimes, Paul replies that nobody would believe him due to his high status within an army that had been killing people since the genocide began. Paul was literally the only person who could tell anyone otherwise and threatens to keep the truth a secret unless Bizimungu continues to help him.
  • Bright Is Not Good: Most of the Interahamwe militia are wearing bright shirts and colorful wigs while massacring the Tutsis. The uniform of the Interahamwe seems to be brightly-patterned shirts; Georges even offers Paul one at the beginning of the film, as a token sign of membership.
  • Brutal Honesty: Colonel Oliver informs Paul in the harshest but most honest way possible that neither the UN nor any western nations will come to stop the Rwandan genocide. See N-Word Privileges for quote.
  • The Cameo: Jean Reno appears briefly in an uncredited role as Mr. Tillens, the hotel CEO with whom Paul talks on the phone when he requests outside help.
  • 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 Power activities.
    • Eventually, even regular Hutus gets persecuted and killed as much as the Tutsis for not being extremist enough.
  • Les Collaborateurs: One of Paul's hotel employees, Gregoire, is a virulent Hutu partisan who openly blackmails his boss and tells the militia about the location of the Tutsi refugees.
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel Oliver, facing a machete-brandishing Hutu murder mob with only a pistol, calmly orders the convoy to "keep driving".
  • Deadly Euphemism."Cut the tall trees."
    • Also "To the President, may he find peace." It is said as a toast regarding President Habyarimana's trip to sign a peace agreement, but "find peace" also can mean "rest in peace".
  • Determinator: Paul does absolutely everything in his power and then some to guarantee the survival of his family and the other refugees.
  • Dirty Coward: Those Hutus 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 .
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Rutaganda thinks he can bribe Paul to hand over some Tutsis at the hotel by offering him some Tutsi slaves of his own.
  • Evil Gloating: Rutaganda does this during Paul's second trip to the warehouse regarding how he and the other extremists were getting away with genocide. As if that wasn't bad enough, he purposely sends Paul down the river road covered with corpses just to keep rubbing it in his face.
  • Evil is Petty: A Hutu soldier pours some beer on some Tutsi refugees just for shit and giggles.
  • Faking the Dead: Some Tutsi are seen playing dead near the bushes when the Interahamwe invade the hotel.
  • False Flag Operation: It has been theorized that several Hutu military and political leaders assassinated President Habyarimana so that it'd give them an excuse for committing the genocide (which was pre-planned). The movie takes this angle.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Two Hutu leaders that Paul needs to curry favor with to survive:
    • Rutaganda is superficially friendly towards Paul when trading with him, and is usually seen with a big grin on his face. For example, he offer Paul a crate of soft drinks for the kids, free of charge, before sending Paul to the bumpy road littered with corpses.
    • General Bizimungu is similarly always friendly and helpful to Paul and seems like a Reasonable Authority Figure in comparison to the private militia leaders, until Paul has nothing left to bribe him with anymore.
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: The film depicts the genocide as being a consequence of this logic.
  • Final Solution: The genocide as carried out by the Hutus carry on the Tutsis.
  • Forced to Watch: Dr Archer mentions that the Hutu militia men forced her to watch them as they killed an innocent little girl.
  • 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.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Paul refuses to believe that the outside world could know of the atrocities that are happening in Rwanda and not care enough to intervene. This ends up being exactly what happens.
  • Good Shepherd: Several European priests and nuns accompany a group of refugees to the hotel, and protest desperately when being told that said refugees won't be evacuated with them. By the UN.
  • Guile Hero: Paul's no physical fighter, but he stands up to the Interahamwe and the corrupt Hutu soldiers with persuasion and bribery.
  • Happily Married: Paul and Tatiana, despite the latter being a Tutsi. The film begins with showing them enjoying each other's company and, even as things get dark, their marriage still survives.
  • 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 UN soldiers aren't going to protect the refugees or help them get out of the country on the orders of the UNSC.
  • Hell Hotel: Inverted. While it is pretty ominous at times due to being surrounded by a literal genocide, the hotel is one of the few safe places in the nation.
  • Heroic Bystander: Much to his surprise, Paul ends up being one. He opens the hotel up to refugees after his neighbors and relatives come to him for help, using his money to bribe the soldiers and keep them away.
  • 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 equally genocidal Bosnian War, which occurred only a few short years before the Rwandan nightmare.
  • Hollywood Nuns: Briefly spotted when the priest arrives at the hotel with more refugees, though these are dressed in blue.
  • 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.
  • Hope Spot: Several.
    • Hooray! The UN is here to help - but minutes later, Col. Oliver informs Paul that they're only there to safely evacuate Americans and Europeans.
    • The UN eventually starts evacuating the Rwandans, until Gregoire rats them out to the Interahamwe and almost gets a lot of them killed.
  • 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. They all start laughing in relief.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Colonel Oliver when he finds out the U.N. isn't going to stop the genocide.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Paul immediately breaks down sobbing when he returns to the Hotel Milles Collines after driving down the road covered in Tutsi corpses. Clearly seeing how much progress the Hutu extremists were making in the genocide is too much for him to handle. He even tells his assistant Dube to go away when he comes in to check on him, too proud to let anyone see him break down like he did.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Joaquin Phoenix's character is determined to record the massacre to show how bad it is. Sadly, it falls on flat ears, but he certainly tried.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • And a particularly brutal one at that.
    Gen. Bizimungu: (To Col. Oliver) Colonel, the UN need not worry. The Interahamwe? We will control them.
    • Much later, when the hotel refugees are at the end of their rope:
    Tatiana: (To Col. Oliver) The Interahamwe, what about them?
    Col. Oliver: No one controls them.
  • Karma Houdini: Sleazy employee Gregoire receives zero comeuppance for selling out the first band of refugees attempting to flee the hotel, which nearly gets some of them — including Paul's family — killed. The original script took this even further, where an enraged Paul actually attempts to chase him down, only to give up and allow Gregoire to escape his just deserts.
  • Kick the Dog: One of the Hutu soldiers at the Hotel pours some beer at some of the Tutsi refugees mockingly ask if they want some.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Paul previously planned to stay at the hotel to keep helping out refugees rather than go with his family for the first evacuation. He eventually realizes, however, that he can't rely on his bribes when the evacuation trucks are ambushed. His good luck and supplies are going to run out. The Tutsi revolutionaries make sure that the second evacuation goes smoothly.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: General Bizimungu is portrayed as this in comparison to Hutu militia leaders like Rutagunda. Bizimungu is brutal and corrupt, but he claims to have never sent his troops to massacre unarmed civilians, and he's willing to protect Paul, the hotel, and even Tutsis in exchange for bribes.
    • In reality, General Bizimungu did have his troops massacre civilians and was sentenced for war crimes by an international court.
  • Moral Pragmatist: Paul brings this up when Tatiana asks why doesn't he use his contacts to help out their neighbors, at the beginning of the movie. He says that they don't know how the situation will get worse and his priority is to protect hers and the kids. This doesn't last when a general tries to make him shoot his neighbors and family, and Paul realizes that to save his family he has to save everyone.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Hutu soldiers and the Interahamwe slaughtering the Tutsis and moderate Hutus, remind a lot the Nazis hunting and massacring the Jews and punishing the Germans who tried to help them during the Holocaust.
  • The Needs of the Many: When Paul's wife and children board the first UN convoy to escape Rwanda, he willingly decides to stay behind to continue protecting those remaining at the hotel. This unfortunately backfires on him when the Interahamwe attack the convoy, forcing them to return to the hotel.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Nick Nolte plays a Captain Ersatz Canadian colonel named Oliver, rather than the real-life General Roméo Dallaire who was the Force Commander for UNAMIR. Whether this was to avoid historical inaccuracies or because he didn't want to bother with a Québécois accent isn't clear.
  • Not His Blood: Paul finds his son covered in blood and screaming. He immediately brings Roger inside and starts wiping him down with a look of utmost terror, only for his family members to note that it's someone else's blood. It turns out that the kid went to see his neighbors, only to find their bodies. After that, Roger takes to hiding under the bed when he sees soldiers.
  • N-Word Privileges: Colonel Oliver use this during his Despair Event Horizon to make a point of how little the Western leaders care about the situation in Rwanda.
    Colonel Oliver: 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.
  • Oh, Crap!: The look on Colonel Oliver's face when the Interahamwe roll a wrecked car into the road to stop his convoy clearly says this.
  • Papa Wolf: Paul at first is planning to wait out the violence and use his contacts to protect his family. Then his son is curled in a ball and coated in blood, followed by family members and neighbors begging for his help. All bets are off after that and Paul becomes determined to protect everyone. He also becomes this to his orphaned nieces when they are found, and he takes them with him.
  • Police Are Useless: The UN peacekeepers, but not by choice.
    Col. Oliver: I'm only allowed to leave four soldiers stationed here, Paul. And they're not allowed to shoot.
  • Propaganda Machine: The pretty much Truth in Television. Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, the anti-Tutsi "Hutu Power" radio station we hear on the film.
  • 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 institutionalized but encouraged by the militias and military. One survivor of the genocide reported being raped more than 5 times a day while the men stood around and watched.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: In abundance. As is to be expected from a genocide.
  • 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."
  • Real-Person Epilogue: During the closing credits, it is mentioned that the real Paul and Tatiana Rusesabagina now lived in Belgium with their children and adopted nieces, and that that Thomas and Fedens were never found. It goes on to discuss how the genocide was ended by the Tutsi rebels in July 1994 when they drove the Hutu army and Interahamwe out of the country and into the Congo. The fates of both the real-life Georges Rutaganda and Augustin Bizimungu are mentioned as well, mentioning that Bizimungu had been captured in Angola in 2002 to stand trial before the war crimes tribunal set up by the UN in Tanzania, and that Rutaganda was sentenced to life in prison at the same tribunal.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: It's confirmed in the epilogue that the Tutsi rebels made sure to Pay Evil unto Evil towards the Hutu extremists for causing a systematic genocide. They chased the extremists into the Congo, who left a trail of corpses.
  • Ridiculous Exchange Rates: Downplayed. An officer refuses to accept RWF bills as a bribe, calling them worthless.note 
  • Sociopathic Soldier: All the Hutu soldiers are this, with the possible exception of General Bizimungu. Those in the hotel attempt to make life as miserable as possible for the Tutsi refugees.
  • Suicide Pact: This is the contingency plan Paul proposes to Tatiana in the event that the Interahamwe launch an attack on the hotel, telling her that she and the children must jump from the roof of the hotel to avoid the indignity of being killed by the militia's machetes.
  • Sword Drag: The Interahamwe do this, sliding their machetes against the ground while closing in on the Tutsi refugees.
  • Take a Third Option: Given the choice between shooting the Tutsi refugees or being shot himself, Paul instead bribes the soldier holding him at gunpoint into releasing them.
  • Take That!:
    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 
  • Tension-Cutting Laughter: In the climax, Paul finds out that the Hutu extremists have invaded the hotel and he runs through it in a panic calling for Tatiana. After agonizing minutes of fruitless searching, he finds her in a bathroom with the kids, holding a showerhead as a weapon. They all start laughing in relief — Tatiana was worried he was an extremist about to kill her and their sons, Paul was fearing they were all dead— as Paul asks how she was going to use it
  • The Theme Park Version: in-universe. Paul's associate explains the distinction between Hutu and Tutsi as having basically just been an invention of the Belgians during the colonial period. The reality is more complex than that, as pre-existing notions of Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups did exist, and theories abound concerning migration patterns of the Tutsi and where they may have come from centuries earlier. However, the cultures and bloodlines are so mixed in Rwanda as to make the black-and-white distinction used by the Interahamwe quite false.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone:
    • Dube is the first Tutsi character introduced, and is a nice, pleasant hotel worker. Audiences might expect him to get killed immediately, but despite some risks, he lives to the end of the film.
    • Miss Archer's van is shown overturned after she went into dangerous territory alone. At the end of the film, it's revealed she made it to the refugee camp okay.
  • Uncertain Doom: Tatiana's brother Thomas and his wife Fedens vanished the same night that President Habiyarmana was assassinated and the genocide began and were never found. Though it is likely that they were killed given the situation, it is unknown for certain. Tatiana herself believed them to be dead, while Paul speculated that they might have gone into hiding.
  • Wham Line:
    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.
    • This exchange between Rutaganda and Paul:
      Rutaganda: Soon, all the Tutsis will be dead.
      Paul: You do not honestly believe that you can kill them all?
      Rutaganda: And why not? Why not? We are halfway there already.
  • Wham Shot: The river road scene.
    • The shot of Miss Archer's truck overturned.
  • White Man's Burden: Invoked and subverted. 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": Doubles as a Take That! moment when a refugee angrily shuts off the radio as UN officials continue to bullshit the issue as the question of genocide is discussed. Paul's disgust really sums up the utter callousness of the UN through the crisis.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Dr. Archer mentions that not even a little girl has been spared by the Hutu militia.
    • As if that alone wasn't horrifying enough, Dr. Archer explained that the little girl was begging for her life, and that her last words were, "I promise I won't be Tutsi anymore." That didn't help obviously.


Video Example(s):


"Why Not? Why Not?"

Much to the disbelief and horror of Paul Rusesabagina, Hutu militia leader Georges Rutagunda has made it clear that him and his allies are dead set on their goal to wipe out all the Tutsis in Rwanda, stating that they're halfway there already. Sadly, in the real-life Rwandan Genocide, about 3/4ths of all Tutsis (up to 800,000 people) were massacred in just 100 days.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (19 votes)

Example of:

Main / FinalSolution

Media sources: