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Hotel Rwanda

Airs Saturday, April 3, 2010 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) saves more than 1,200 Tutsi refugees from genocide by hiding them at his posh hotel in Rwanda's capital city.

Paul Rusesabagina and Don Cheadle on the set of United Artists' drama "Hotel Rwanda."
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Above: Paul Rusesabagina and Don Cheadle on the set of United Artists' drama "Hotel Rwanda."

Don Cheadle gives "the performance of a lifetime" (Los Angeles Times) in this "remarkable" (Newsweek) and "inspiring" (Chicago Tribune) true story of one man's brave stance against savagery during the 1994 Rwandan conflict. Co-starring Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte and Joaquin Phoenix, Hotel Rwanda is "the kind of film that can change the world" (Joel Siegel, "Good Morning America").

As his country descends into madness, five-star hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina (Cheadle) sets out to save his family. But when he sees that the world will not intervene in the massacre of minority Tutsis, he finds the courage to open his hotel to over 1,200 refugees. Now, with a rabid militia at the gates, he has only his wits and words to help keep them alive another hour, another day.

The Story Behind the Film:

The Rwandan conflict of the 1990s marked one of the bloodiest chapters in recent African history. The genocide was made all the more tragic by the fact that most of the world chose to ignore the conflict and the plight of the Rwandan people. While occasional reports about "tribal warfare" in Rwanda were carried by international news agencies, the horror of the conflict, instead of causing international outrage, seemed to be written off as another "third world incident" and not worthy of attention.

Paul (Don Cheadle) risks his own life to house Tutsi refugees at the hotel he manages.
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Above: Paul (Don Cheadle) risks his own life to house Tutsi refugees at the hotel he manages.

Over the course of 100 days, almost one million people were killed in Rwanda. The streets of the capital city of Kigali ran red with rivers of blood, but no one came to help. There was no international intervention in Rwanda, no expeditionary forces, no coalition of the willing. There was no international aid for Rwanda. Rwanda's Hutu extremists slaughtered their Tutsi neighbors and any moderate Hutus who stood in their way, and the world left them to it.

"Ten years on, politicians from around the world have made the pilgrimage to Rwanda to ask for forgiveness from the survivors, and once more the same politicians promise `never again,'" says director Terry George. "But it's happening yet again in Sudan, or the Congo, or some Godforsaken place where life is worth less than dirt. Places where men and women like Paul and Tatiana shame us all by their decency and bravery."

Wars have always provided fertile ground for the emergence of heroes and supreme acts of heroism by ordinary people. Rwanda was no exception. Amidst the horrendous violence and chaos that swept the country, one of the many heroes to emerge was Paul Rusesabagina, an ordinary man who, out of love and compassion, managed to save the lives of 1268 people.

Terry George had long been interested in doing a film set in Africa, but it was Paul Rusesabagina's story that finally brought him to the continent. "When my co-writer Keir Peirson introduced me to the story, I immediately knew I wanted to do it," says George. "I flew to Belgium and met Paul and learned of his life: how he became a hotelier, how he rose through the ranks of employees in the various Sabena hotels he worked in, and how he ended up at the Hotel Mille Collines in Kigali."

It was the remarkable human element of the story that struck a chord with Hotel Rwanda producer Alex Ho. "This story is very close to my heart, and it's the kind of story I really appreciate," he says. "It's about a normal man who, when prompted by his wife, is able to use his position to help others. In the course of doing that, he sets out on a journey that makes him a better man."

Visit the film's official Web site to view a photo gallery, video clips and read more about Rwanda.

Video

Trailer: Hotel Rwanda

Above: 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.