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Hotel Rwanda


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#1 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 03 December 2004 - 12:14 PM

Anybody know what sort of release pattern this film is going to have? The IMDB says it will have a "limited" release December 22, but gives no indication of when it will go wider, and the DVD screener I got came with a letter which indicates that there will be screenings in New York and Los Angeles as late as January 15. The film has apparently been in screenings for the past three weeks already, and it was also shown at the Toronto festival back in September, so it's possible some people here may have seen it already.

#2 Overstreet

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Posted 03 December 2004 - 12:18 PM

I haven't had a chance to watch my screener yet, but I see it earned a spot in the NBR's top ten of the year.

#3 SDG

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Posted 03 December 2004 - 12:43 PM

Below Finding Neverland.

Not that that means anything.

But, OTOH, not that it means anything either, if you follow me.

#4 Overstreet

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Posted 12 December 2004 - 12:24 PM

The undeniable similarities of this story to the story of Schindler's List will probably earn this film some criticism, but the significance of what Terry George and his cast have achieved far outweighs that unfortunate parallel. It'll take me a while to sort out the difference between the greatness of George's accomplishment in delivering to audiences the details of an event that the West like to pretend never happened, and the greatness of this film as art.

Whatever the case, Hotel Rwanda is one of this year's MUST-SEE film, featuring a powerful, nomination-deserving performance by Don Cheadle as the almost insanely courageous hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, and co-starring Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jean Reno.

It's the year's most terrifying horror film ... especially because it's all true. In fact, the film affected me more powerfully than Schindler's List, because where Spielberg's story moved all over the map to give us an appreciation of the scope of the Holocaust, Hotel Rwanda grounds us in the experience of one man as he slowly comes to realization of the magnitude of his neighbors' evil. In conversation after conversation, we're drawn to the edges of our seats, hanging on every word he says to his enemies, knowing that one slip could cost Rusesabagina and hundreds more their lives. Moreover, we're worried about his stock of bottles of Scotch, because we know how valuable it can be in negotiating with the enemy.

The film is also humiliating for a Westerner to watch, as we observe the Rwandans watching the news and listening to the radio while Western nations debate whether or not to intervene. I felt shame and grief as I realized how little I ever really understood about the difference between the word "Hutu" and the word "Tutsi."

Whereas Schindler's List concludes with a scene of emotional grandstanding, as if pulling out all the stops to earn Neeson his Oscar, Rwanda ends on what might seem a triviality of optimism, a glimmer of hope in the middle of overwhelming darkness. But considering the particularity of the story's focus on relationships, I was glad for it. I also appreciated the film's willingness to acknowledged that compassion is not something you can offer others simply. Compassion is complicated, leading to divided loyalties and difficult choices, between helping this person or this person. In illustrating this, Sophie Okonedo, playing Rusesabagina's wife, is especially effective.

It may not be the pinnacle of artistry, but it is one of the most powerful and signficant releases this year. We've been gnawing on the bones of World War Two year after year after year, as if the Nazis were the low point of human history and if we just revisit them often enough somehow it won't happen again. But genocide continues, with an immediacy that prompts us to skip over that page of the newspaper. Terry George is bringing our attention to more immediate horrors, in hopes of cultivating awareness and action. Sure, he's somewhat guilty of oversimplifying the conflict and of resorting to some cheap suspense-film tactics along the way. Even if we hope for a better film on the subject, we should still, perhaps only once, see his film.

#5 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 12 December 2004 - 12:34 PM

Haven't read your comments yet, Jeff, because I want to see the film "blind" -- um, that doesn't sound like quite the right metaphor, does it -- but one thing I'm curious about is how ready we critics ought to engage the film as "historical document", considering those revelations that have come up recently about the distortions in Schindler's List.

I'm going to guess that Cheadle's character comes across as at least somewhat heroic, and probably more heroic than Schindler (unless Cheadle also cheats on his wife, etc.). Does anyone know if there are any significant articles (or, heck, books even) that we should be checking out to see just how true-to-life Cheadle's interpretation of the character is?

#6 Overstreet

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Posted 12 December 2004 - 12:56 PM

The film is based on We regret to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, a book by Philip Gourevitch, which is apparently far more in-depth and detailed.

#7 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 12 December 2004 - 01:17 PM

Dang. The Vancouver library has two copies of that book, but they're both listed as "Lost" or "Damaged".

Well, the library ALSO has two copies of the Japanese translation ...

#8 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 December 2004 - 03:06 AM

Finally watched my copy today, and it is good, indeed. Artistically it might be a bit closer to a movie-of-the-week than to, say, Schindler's List, but it's definitely powerful, and anchored in strong performances.

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:
: I felt shame and grief as I realized how little I ever really understood about the
: difference between the word "Hutu" and the word "Tutsi."

Really? I thought the film made the point pretty effectively that there really wasn't much of a difference at all, beyond an accident of Belgian colonial history.

: We've been gnawing on the bones of World War Two year after year after year,
: as if the Nazis were the low point of human history and if we just revisit them
: often enough somehow it won't happen again. But genocide continues, with an
: immediacy that prompts us to skip over that page of the newspaper.

I do find myself pondering the difference between this film, produced a mere ten years after the events it depicts (and at a time when many of its key protagonists are still alive), versus Schindler's List, which was produced a half-century after the events it depicted (and at a time when its main protagonist had long been dead).

- - -

Revisiting Rwanda's Horrors With an Ex-National Security Adviser
Anthony Lake . . . , the national security adviser in the Clinton administration, played a role in determining United States policy in Rwanda a decade ago, and he had agreed to attend the screening of a movie that, even before its release, is provoking uncomfortable memories of the collective failure by Western powers to confront an atrocity.
New York Times, December 20

#9 opus

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Posted 21 December 2004 - 12:06 PM

Very interesting New York Times article about how the film managed to get a PG-13 rating - despite being originally rated R.

#10 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 December 2004 - 04:08 PM

My review.

#11 Darrel Manson

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Posted 01 January 2005 - 11:01 PM

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Dec 21 2004, 12:06 AM)
Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:
: I felt shame and grief as I realized how little I ever really understood about the
: difference between the word "Hutu" and the word "Tutsi."

Really?  I thought the film made the point pretty effectively that there really wasn't much of a difference at all, beyond an accident of Belgian colonial history.

View Post


I have a question about this after seeing the film today. To be sure, the film portrays the difference as the result of a near arbitrary classification by the Belgians. However, The US State Dept. report on Rwanda (which I found bouncing around the film's website) gives a much longer history of the division of Hutu and Tutsi's. It could have been mostly a past that was ignored before the Europeans did their thing.

Another link tells of Paul Rusesabagina saying he never knew there were Hutu and Tutsis until he was 19 in 1973 when the Tutsis were heading to neighboring countries as refugees. Pauls's father was Hutu, his mother Tutsi.

#12 Darrel Manson

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Posted 03 January 2005 - 08:21 PM

QUOTE(Jeffrey Overstreet @ Dec 12 2004, 09:56 AM)
The film is based on We regret to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, a book by Philip Gourevitch, which is apparently far more in-depth and detailed.

View Post

IMDB (and so I assume the credits) don't credit this. Is this considered an adapted or original screenplay (so I can suggest it for voting)?


#13 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 03 January 2005 - 11:51 PM

Darrel Manson wrote:
: Is this considered an adapted or original screenplay (so I can suggest it for voting)?

The 'For Your Consideration' DVD recommends it for "Best Original Screenplay".

#14 Ron Reed

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 08:39 PM

PTC:
QUOTE
Canada doesn't come out looking too good, either.  Nick Nolte plays Colonel Oliver, the Canuck in charge of the UN forces, and his naive toast to peace near the beginning allows Paul and others to lull themselves into thinking that everything will be okay. When it turns out the Western nations are not actually interested in saving the Africans, but only in evacuating their own people, the colonel is infuriated.


I was very affected by this film, which I saw yesterday. Today I picked up Romeo Dallaire's Shake Hands With The Devil. Do you think Oliver is based on Dallaire?

As for your comment that "Canada doesn't come out looking too good, either." The country doesn't get mentioned in dialogue at all, of course, so it's as blameworthy as the rest of the universe in this business - no denying that. But as far as the portrayal of Colonel Oliver is concerned, to my perception, he came off very well indeed. The early incident you cite is in keeping with his job in the midst of brokering a fragile peace between the Tutsis and Hutus. Does it contribute to Paul's denial? Perhaps, but unless you're remembering a specific detail that eludes me, Paul is very firmly established in denial of his own long before that, and it persists well after that. Neither his denial nor Oliver's tarnished them, to my perception. It humanized them. And once there was no more denial to be hidden behind, I found both men magnificently heroic, entirely within the bounds of very real humany limitations. (For the record, I didn't pick up on the fact that Oliver is meant to be a Canadian while watching the film, so my perception of the character wasn't shaped by some sort of nationalism.) And Nolte was exceptionally good in the role: well cast, well realized.

Potent film. And I'll certainly be making a case for Cheadle as a strong contender for Best Actor. Because his character isn't highly expressive, because he conceals so much, Cheadle's work doesn't have the flash of lots of attention-getting performances. Not to take away from the more obvious tour de force performances - many of them are exceptional as well - but in many ways, Cheadle's challenge here is the more demanding one. The depth and range of his emotions - as much as the character tried to mute them - was extraordinary, and he never overplayed, never missed the mark. I always sensed I could see him thinking, agonizing, strategizing - or being at a complete loss. An enormous accomplishment.

And I've got to look up more on the woman who played his wife. She seemed very familiar. Also a remarkable performance.

#15 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 09 January 2005 - 03:51 AM

Ron wrote
: Today I picked up Romeo Dallaire's Shake Hands With The Devil. Do you think
: Oliver is based on Dallaire?

That would be my hunch, yeah.

: But as far as the portrayal of Colonel Oliver is concerned, to my perception, he
: came off very well indeed. The early incident you cite is in keeping with his job in
: the midst of brokering a fragile peace between the Tutsis and Hutus.

As a person, sure, he comes off well enough. But as a soldier who is supposed to grasp the situation he has been sent to handle, and who naively expects peace just because the UN is around ... well, I think it does reflect our country's naivete on the international scene.

: For the record, I didn't pick up on the fact that Oliver is meant to be a Canadian
: while watching the film . . .

Isn't there a maple leaf on his uniform?

: Potent film. And I'll certainly be making a case for Cheadle as a strong contender
: for Best Actor. Because his character isn't highly expressive, because he
: conceals so much, Cheadle's work doesn't have the flash of lots of attention-
: getting performances. Not to take away from the more obvious tour de force
: performances - many of them are exceptional as well - but in many ways,
: Cheadle's challenge here is the more demanding one. The depth and range of his
: emotions - as much as the character tried to mute them - was extraordinary, and
: he never overplayed, never missed the mark. I always sensed I could see him
: thinking, agonizing, strategizing - or being at a complete loss.

Abso-bloody-lutely. One scene that sticks in my mind, in particular, is the scene where he is sort of pleading with the general and threatening him and calling his bluff all at the same time -- his desperation in that scene is riveting, compelling, realistic, etc. As you say, his performance has depth and range, and he never overplays.

(Not that this sort of thing matters, but between the buzz around Cheadle and the buzz around Ray's Jamie Foxx, I think we can expect another flurry of articles about black actors finally getting their due at the Academy Awards, etc., especially if BOTH are nominated.)

I agree that the film is potent, too, though it might have been more so if it hadn't TRIED to be so potent; in scenes like the one where Joaquin Phoenix walks away and says, "I feel so ashamed," I felt that surely there was some way the shame of that situation could have been communicated without the script actually spelling it out for us like that. Moments like that felt just a wee bit too movie-of-the-week-ish.

But those moments are minor, and my quibbles about them are minor. Overall, I do like the film quite a bit.

#16 Jazzaloha

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Posted 07 February 2005 - 06:18 PM

I saw this film this past weekend, and I thought it was a good film. I agree with Peter's "movie-of-the-week" comment, and also his comments that he thought the film was still worthwhile.

spoilers1.gif

I liked Cheadle's performance, but I think I didn't think as highly of it because my expectations were so high before seeing the film. I think Cheadle is a very good actor, and I remember anticipating his greatest performance. One of the things that initially disappointed me was his accent. After hearing his British accent in the "Ocean's" movies, I was expecting a flawless African accent. I don't think it was. Still, it wasn't bad, and this minor shortcoming, ultimately, didn't take away from his overall performance.

What kept me glued to the screen was the many harrowing situations that Rusesabagina gets in and the way he gets out of them. If the film is accurate, Rusesabagina is a truly remarkable person, and the story is really incredible. The film would probably crack my top ten, and, fwiw, I'd choose it over <i>Finding Neverland</i>.

#17 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 09 February 2005 - 02:32 PM

Don Cheadle Becomes 'Nightline' Correspondent
ABC, which received plenty of political flak five years ago when it hired Leonardo DiCaprio to interview President Clinton for an Earth Day special, is getting none of that for hiring Don Cheadle to function tonight (Wednesday) as the principal correspondent on a Nightline feature devoted to the violence in Rwanda. Cheadle, who has received numerous awards for his performance as inn keeper Paul Rusesabagina in last year's Hotel Rwanda, has devoted much of his time since making the movie to raising this country's awareness of the genocidal massacre in Rwanda, where a million people died in just 100 days in 1994, and the continued current crisis in Sudan. (He recently referred to the "tsunamis of violence" taking place in that part of the world.) Today's Los Angeles Times reported that Cheadle will not only narrate the feature, but will be seen interviewing refugees and members of a Congressional delegation that recently visited the country. Rick Wilkinson, who produced the feature for Nightline told the Times that he believed it was the only occasion in which an entertainer played such an active role on Nightline.

#18 BethR

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Posted 10 February 2005 - 11:23 AM

Brian D. McLaren's article on SojoNet on seeing Hotel Rwanda as Revisiting The Passion of the Christ.

The article may seem deliberately inflammatory in some ways, but I think these questions are worth asking:
QUOTE
Why did so many churches urge people to see Gibson's film, and why did so few (if any?) promote Terry George's film? What do our answers to that question say about us?

What were the practical outcomes of millions of people seeing Gibson's film? And what outcomes might occur if equal numbers saw Hotel Rwanda - as an act of Christian faithfulness?


#19 Overstreet

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Posted 10 February 2005 - 11:39 AM

I agree with Brian McLaren.

#20 SDG

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Posted 10 February 2005 - 12:09 PM

I, too (with the caveat that I think his penultimate question, which scans like a rhetorical question suggesting the answer "Not much," bears a different answer than the implicit one).