365 High-Def Days of Oscar: Day 120

Release Year: 2004

Oscar Nominations:

Best Actor

Best Supporting Actress

Best Original Screenplay


The true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda.


n 1994, Rwanda was faced with the start of one of the bloodiest genocides of the 20th Century. This film attempts to document what happened with approachable realism. That’s not to say that the events were toned down, but we were given a way to comprehend the massacre via the Rusesabagina family. Criminally under recognized at the Oscars in 2004, it found worldwide attention upon home video release. Let’s take a look at “Hotel Rwanda”.

Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) never meant to be a hero. He managed the Mille Collines, a Belgian owned luxury hotel. Paul travels with his driver Dube (Desmond Dube) to the local black market warehouse. They talk about the Tutsi rebels that are trying to retake the Hutu side of Rwanda. This is part of an age old conflict started by the Belgian occupation of the country.

The Belgians came and divided the nation. Then, they left as quickly as they came. But, Paul is a little more giving seeing as how he’s married to a Tutsi named Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo). Paul ignores the fact that a civil war is brewing and arrives at the warehouse to continue with business. Paul ends up having to rescue Dube by the time that they arrive at the black market.

Paul starts to worry a little, as he returns home to find that his wife’s sister and husband are being told to return to the Tutsi side of the country. Everything builds to the Hutu Major General Juvenal Habyarimana being assassinated by Tutsi forces and the Hutu militia taking over the country. The Hutu militia orders the immediate murder of any Tutsis, while Paul decides to hide his wife and others at his Hotel. Paul ends up hosting 1200 refugees at the Hotel while the war rages on outside. This builds into one of the memorable sieges in recent history.

This film doesn’t try to instruct the view as to who is a hero and is a villain. It leaves those distinctions up to the audience. By the time that U.N. Colonel Oliver (Nick Nolte) shows up, we see that there’s no one truly in control of the situation. Then there’s the hotel owner (Jean Reno) who calls Paul to let him know that the French are looking into the situation. Red Cross worker Pat Archer (Cara Seymour) and two journalists named Jack (Joaquin Phoenix) and David (David O’Hara) work together to bring some war orphans to the hotel and to bring images of the carnage to U.S. and European television screens.

But, while Paul waits for Western support he deals with the crumbling morale of the hotel staff. How this all ends is to be expected, but with a hope unmatched by their condition. Normally, I don’t really get involved with stories such as these. But, it got my attention and I’m appreciative of that. Especially, when you consider Don Cheadle’s amazing performance that would’ve won him the Best Actor Oscar in a quieter year. Sometimes the quieter films go unnoticed and this unfortunately was one of them. But, you can rest assured that time will prove this flick to be a superior triumph.

The Blu-Ray comes with a documentary, commentary track and featurettes that were ported over from the prior DVD. However, the 50 gig disc has allowed for a high bitrate. The result is a reference quality transfer that makes the film shine better than I remember during theatrical exhibition. The DTS-HD 5.1 track is sharp without anything really overpowering the dialogue. In the end, I’d recommend a purchase.


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