“Hotel Rwanda,” a recently released movie from United Artists, focuses on one of the few silver linings of the genocide in Rwanda during the 1990s: the bravery and perseverance of one individual, Paul Rusesabagina. In his deft portrayal of this man, Don Cheadle proves that he is among Hollywood’s elite actors as he shines in this compelling story of grace and courage under fire.

Rusebagina was the manager of the Hotel Demille in Rwanda during the beginning of the social and political unrest that erupted into genocide in 1994. He enjoyed a comfortable life with his wife, Tatiana, and his two daughters. Played by Sophie Okonedo, Tatiana embodies both strength and sympathy as a woman desperately trying to keep her family alive throughout the genocide.

In 1994, the hostile situation between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes came to a head. The two different tribes had been warring since their days as a Belgian colony when the people were divided into tribes. The Tutsis became the ruling and privileged class and the Hutus became the lower class.

The Hutus organized a militia army and, after a missile attack killed the president of Rwanda on April 6, 1994, they set out to destroy all Tutsis. The “cockroaches” must be destroyed, said Hutu radio propaganda that played constantly in the movie.

It was when Rusebagina witnessed his Tutsi neighbor being dragged from his home that he sprang into action. His wife was Tutsi while he was Hutu. He took the hotel van, loaded it with his family and some neighbors, and drove to the hotel Demille. Refugees flooded in as the Hutu militia bludgeoned and knifed hundreds of thousands of people.

Single-handedly, Rusebagina was responsible for saving more than a thousand Rwandan lives. He managed to feed, house and arrange for the departure of many refugees, including his own family and two orphaned nieces.

Nick Nolte as Colonel Oliver, a Canadian U.N. official, and Joaquin Phoenix as Jack, an American photographer on assignment, both witness the bloodshed and genocide taking place and try to help. However, there isn’t anyone who was willing to help them. Jack is forced by the U.S. government to leave Rwanda. Oliver’s men are withdrawn from the field when most needed and he goes on to say to Rusebagina that if he were white, people wouldn’t be acting like this (ignoring the problem).

The movie gives a good history of the basic facts of Rwanda in the 1990s, a story with which many are not familiar.

However, while Steven Spielberg showed no censorship in depicting the horror of the Holocaust, Director Terry George does keep much out of the movie. The gravity of the gruesome rape and death is hard to realize under the auspices of a PG-13 rating.

All in all, a gripping and important story is told through truly gifted and wonderful actors. The situation in Rwanda was ignored for too long and it is way past time to have light shown on it.

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