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Film / Hotel Rwanda

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Hotel Rwanda is a 2004 historical drama directed by Terry George that is sometimes referred to as an African Schindler's List, with good reason. It tells the true story of Paul Rusesabagina (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 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 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:

  • Adult Fear: Having to keep your family safe during a genocide is a huge one. Add on the extra terror Paul must endure due to the fact that his wife is Tutsi and his children are half Tutsi.
    • Though not addressed by the film, Rusesabagina is in fact half-Tutsi himself, meaning that he was at even greater personal risk than implied, plus his children were technically 3/4 Tutsi.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Eventually, even regular Hutus gets persecuted 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.
  • 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 .
  • 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: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 - the Europeans only.
    • 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.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Colonel Oliver when he finds out the U.N. isn't going to stop the genocide.
  • 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.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Hutu soldiers and the Interahamwe slaughtering the Tutsis remind a lot the Nazis hunting and massacring the Jews during the Holocaust.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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