The African Studies Center Screens Hotel Rwanda

The African Studies Center Screens Hotel Rwanda

Don Cheadle and Paul Rusesabinga at UCLA's screening of "Hotel Rwanda"

UCLA AFC screens major motion picture "Hotel Rwanda" and hosts actor Don Cheadle, director Terry George and Paul Rusesabagina, whose heroism during the Rwanda genocide is the basis of the film.

I think if people see this footage they'll say, 'Oh my God, that's horrible,' and go on eating their dinners.

This year, while debating whether the massacre in Darfur is indeed genocide, the world marked the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. As part of a year-long observation of the genocide in Rwanda, ASC co-hosted a screening of the upcoming film "Hotel Rwanda" on Monday, November 8, 2004 at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills. The film chronicles the true story of hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, played by Don Cheadle, who sheltered 1,200 Rwandese refugees, in the posh Des Mille Collines Hotel in Kigali. As the city is engulfed in widespread brutality, Rusesabagina uses his long cultivated international and local contacts to ensure the safety of his charges.

Hotel Rwanda tells the story of one man's attempt to shelter those in danger. Des Millie Collines Hotel is the secluded private getaway of the Rwandese rich, powerful, and expatriate community in Rwanda. In April of 1994, Paul Rusesabagina, the popular manager of the hotel is friend and confidant to many of the elite clientele. He provided the Rwandan army generals with expensive cigars and top-shelf liquor and a civilized enclave for the Belgian businessmen and European tourists. He lived a comfortable and led a relatively happy and fulfilled life. That ended on April 6, 1994, when the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and Hutu militia (the interahamwe) went from house to house killing Tutsis and moderate Hutu politicians.

Thousands died on the first day while the U.N. peacekeeping forces (UNAMIR--United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda) were are forbidden to intervene, as this would have been a breach of their "monitoring" mandate. Soon foreign nationals were rescued and the situation quickly deteriorated and Rusesabagina found himself the only one of the few with the will to protect the 1,200 refugees in his hotel from the murderous rampage of the interahamwe, who took over Kigali.

The film stars Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo (Dirty Pretty Things) as his wife, and Joaquin Phoenix as the reporter who accurately predicts, "I think if people see this footage they'll say, 'Oh my God, that's horrible,' and go on eating their dinners." Nick Nolte is the frustrated head of the tiny United Nations armed forces contingent (a thinly veiled portrait of Canadian General Romeo Dallaire) who was frustrated by inaction at UN headquarters to halt the fastest genocide in human history.

After the screening producer Terry George, actor Don Cheadle, and Paul Rusesabagina, who received a standing ovation, were on hand for a "question and answer" period with the audience. Terry George shared the arduous task of financing a film that's not only out of mainstream but on Africa. Rusesabagina shared his experience during the genocide as well as facts and some events that were not included in the film He called the genocide a time when "the whole world closed its eyes and ears." Many in the audience expressed their admiration for the heroism of Rusesabagina. Don Cheadle urged the audience to stay involved in Africa and discussed his own efforts to get involved in Africa through the United Nations.

Screening was made possible by assistance from United Artist Films and the Pan-African Film Festival. Hotel Rwanda is winner of The People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival and The American Film Institute's Audience Award. The film has also been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards, including best actor for Don Cheadle and best film. The movie is scheduled to open in the US on December 22.

Published: Wednesday, December 01, 2004