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Hotel Rwanda

When the world closed its eyes, he opened his arms. 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: This film is expected to have certain elements which are subtitled, but it is not expected that the entire film will contain them. 
Directed by Terry George 
Starring: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Joaquin Phoenix,  
An image from Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda is a riveting and emotionally resonant drama featuring an impressive performance by its lead actor. It is one of those rare movies that does not relinquish its hold on the audience when the credits roll but continues to nag at and even shame the viewer for days after.

This true story follows Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a hotel manager who housed Tutsi refugees in their struggle against the Hutu military in the 1990s. It works immediately because it does not attempt to cover the whole genocide; a film about millions of murders would not be successful but looking at how one man responded to the situation allows it to remain focused and gripping. Its choice of main character is also great; looking at a hotel manager means that it is not about heroism but human decency.

A film about one of the most tragic and brutal events in history was always going to be hard to sell but it is ultimately about hope and doing whatever one can in crisis. This is not to say that it shies away from real issues and it makes numerous indirect subtle jabs at the West for not intervening in the struggle.

One of the best parts of the feature is undoubtedly Cheadle. He gives us a restrained tour de force performance showing that he is truly one of our most talented and often underrated actors. He is also supported by a stellar cast, which includes Nick Nolte and Joaquin Phoenix both of whom give nuanced performances.

This is a powerful and provocative drama that for its emotional and informative nature is a must see for all audiences.

Matthew Kent

A true story of a man who fought impossible odds to save everyone he could and create a place where hope survived.

In this modern day classic, Paul Rusesabagina (Cheadle) is the hard working manager of an upper class hotel in Rwanda. Everything is kept meticulously in order, until civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples breaks out. After seeing many of his neighbours killed, Paul negotiates with and bribes the Hutu army leader with whom he has good relations to spare some of the Tutsi people, and then takes everyone he can find back to the hotel. As news of his story spreads, more and more people head towards the hotel from the overloaded UN camps, orphanages and the Red Cross.

Paul has to try and keep up the appearances of the hotel to protect hundreds of Tutsi people and his family on very limited resources until they are all safe from attack. They believe that they will be helped by foreign aid in the form of UN peacekeeping forces, but these prove to be of no help to anyone as the UN forces are not allowed to take part in the defence against the genocide. All they are able to do is get the foreign guests out of the hotel, nothing more. Every step of this story until this point is witnessed by cameraman Jack Daglish (Phoenix), who eventually uses his information to try and help stop the carnage.

This is an incredible piece of modern filmmaking, with performances that are as remarkable as the story and the people depicted. This cinematic masterpiece looks at all different aspects of humanity and human emotions. You’ll come out feeling shaken, but proud that there are some who are willing to make a difference despite everything.

Angharad le Duc


After watching countless genocide/war-type films, and being numbed by all the horrific visuals (think Schindler’s List), one would think that a film such as Hotel Rwanda wouldn’t be able to pierce hearts.

During the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, Hutu militias murdered up to one million Tutsis, with the tacit approval of the Hutu government. This film tells the true story of Paul Rusesabagina (Cheadle), a Hutu who happened to be the manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali. Rusesabagina used his hotel to house and protect both Hutu and Tutsi refugees (think Oskar Schindler).

Watching this show, one can only feel sorry for the people of Rwanda, not only because of all the fighting and killing, but because of the reluctance of Western powers to intervene in the fighting.

Rusesabagina did many things to keep his “guests” safe. He negotiated with the Militia, by bribing them with liquor and cigars. He made many long distance calls, appealing for help. He even risked his life trying to protect his family and “guests”. And yet, we all know that the militia was never appeased and the West remained Reluctant to get involved.

Unlike most genocide-type films, where nothing much seems to go on, Hotel Rwanda is a little bit more “exciting” and fast-moving. The story oscillates between hope and despair, between the U.N. sticking around to keep the peace and them abandoning Rwanda.

The acting may not be perfect, but everything else in Hotel Rwanda is on the spot, enough to make most of us both cringe and tear.

Somewhere in the show, a TV crew-member said the following (after filming an atrocity):

‘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.’

This might be true for all of us.

Roy Lim

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Screenings of this film:

2005/2006 Autumn Term (35mm)
2005/2006 Autumn Term (35mm)
2010/2011 Autumn Term (35mm)
2013/2014 Autumn Term (35mm)
2016/2017 Autumn Term (digital)