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Hotel Rwanda (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 14, 2011 by  



A powerful film that deserves to be seen!   The Blu-ray release of “Hotel Rwanda” features wonderful picture and audio quality and if you haven’t watched this film before or you have owned it previously on DVD, it’s a film that one would definitely want to own on Blu-ray! A wonderful performance by Don Cheadle!   “Hotel Rwanda” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2004 Kigali Releasing Limited.  All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Hotel Rwanda

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2004

DURATION: 122 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby surround, French 5.1 Dolby Digital

RATED: PG-13 (Violence, Disturbing Images and Brief Strong Language)

COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc./Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2011

Directed by Terry George

Written by Keir Pearson, Terry George

Produced by Terry George, A. Kitman Ho

Co-Producer: Luigi Musini, Bridget Pickering

Executive Producer: Sam Bhembe, Roberto Cicutto, Martin Katz, Francesco Melzi D’Eril, Duncan Reid, Hal Sadoff

Co-Executive Producer: Nicolas Meyer, Keir Pearson, Izidore Codron

Music by Afro Celt Sound System, Rupert Gregson-Williams, Andrea Guerra

Cinematography by Robert Fraisse

Edited by Naomi Geraghty

Casting by Moonyeenn Lee, Richard Pagano

Producton Design by Johnny Breedt, Tony Burrough

Art Direction by Emma MacDevitt

Set Decoration by Estelle Ballack

Costume Design by Ruy Filipe

Starring:

Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina

Sophie Okonedo as Tatiana Rusesabagina

Desmond Dube as Dube

Hakeem Kae-Kazim as Geroge Rutaganda

Nick Nolte as Colonel Oliver

Joaquin Phoenix as Jack Daglish

Cara Seymour as Pat Archer

Jean Reno as Mr. Tillens – Sabena Airlines President

Fana Mokoena As General Bimungu

Tony Kgoroge as Gregoire

Rosie Motene as Receptionist

Neil McCarthy as Jean Jacques

Mabutho “Kid” Sithole as Head Chef

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 more than 1,200 refugees. Now, with a rabid militia at the gates, he must use his well-honed grace, flattery and cunning to protect his guests from certain death.

In 1994, one of the worst atrocities in the world took place, known as the Rwandan Genocide, over 1,000,000 people in the small East African nation of Rwanda were slaughtered by Hutu people.

The genocide was a culmination of ethnic competition between the minority Tutsi and the majority Hutu and the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana set off mass killings of Tutsis and pro-peace Hutus (who were seen as “traitors”).

Unfortunately to the world, no one knew of the atrocities that were committed because many of the media and UN were sent back home as part of the evacuation and the Hutu dominated media including various villages hid the massacres that took place in the area.  In fact, the news was reported as a civil war between the Hutu and Tutsis when actually a mass massacre was taking place.

This leads to the film “Hotel Rwanda” and the brave efforts of the assistant manager Paul Rusesabagina, who used his status at the Hotel Rwanda (Sabena Hotel des Mille Colines) as a way to utilize his network of contacts but also was able to bargain his way to save himself, his family but most importantly over 1,200 Tutsi refugees and pro-peace Hutus by using the hotel to shelter the refugees who came to his hotel.

The story of Rusesabagina was an inspiration to co-executive producer Keir Pearson that as he researched and interview survivors from the hotel, he began his work to make a film a reality.  Coming in to co-write and direct the film was Terry George (“Hart’s War”, “In the Name of the Father”).

While the film made over $33 million in the box office, it proved to be a critical success as it was listed as many film critics list of top films of 2004, winning multiple awards but most importantly, telling the story to world of the atrocities that took place back in 1994 and both the producers of the film and the United Nations Foundation would go on to create the International Fund for Rwanda to assist Rwandan survivors.  Actor Don Cheadle (who plays Paul Rusesabagina) would also enjoy great success from the film.

And now the Blu-ray will be officially released on May 2011 (note: The Blu-ray was originally released back in Feb. 2011 as a Best Buy exclusive).

“Hotel Rwanda” focuses on the character of Paul Rusesabagina (played by Don Cheadle), a family man who runs the top luxury hotel in Rwanda and establishing his network of contacts with the U.N., the media and various people of power who have come to stay at the hotel.

While going to pickup supplies from good supplier Georges Rutaganda (pleayed by Hakeem Kae-Kazim) who also happens to be the local leader of the Interahamwe, the anti-Tutsi militia, Paul observes how the UN Peacekeeping forces led by Canadian Colonel Oliver (played by Nick Nolte) are working for a plan for peace.

And as everyone is celebrating for peace, Paul’s brother-in-law warns him that he has heard at work that there will be trouble in Rwanda and that he and the family should leave the country as soon as possible.  But because Paul feels comfortable with the U.N. presence in Rwanda, he tells his brother-in-law not to worry.

But when he goes home, he notices fights have broken out and when he goes to find his family, his wife Tatiana (played by Sophie Okonedo) and many people from the neighborhood are hiding inside his basement.   He and everyone else hears in the radio about the assassination of President Habyarimana and now the Hutu will want revenge against the Tutsi people.

Paul is Hutu, his wife is Tutsi but for Paul, he just wants people to be safe but when he finds his young son beaten, he realizes that terrible things are taking place and to make things worse, the following morning, Hutu soldiers are at his home, asking everyone to leave.  Paul gets everyone inside the hotel van and they head towards the Sabena Hotel des Mille Collines but he is stopped.  The Hutu military want the Tutsi’s dead and those Hutu that were with them.  With quick thinking, Paul is able to come up with an idea to use the hotel’s money from the safe to bargain with the military who are about to kill the people by giving them money and sure enough it works.

But its chaos at the hotel.  Many people who were kicked out of their homes are trying to get to the hotel, orphanages are trying to bring the children to the hotel and to make things worse, because Paul is looked at as a Hutu “traitor” for harboring “cockroaches”, his Hutu staff are unwilling to work for him.

But fortunately for Paul, the only thing that has helped him is his years of establishing his contacts with powerful people and eventually, he is able to get most of his staff behind him (and remind them of their employment).  But as more Hutu militia arrive to kill the Tutsi’s staying in the hotel, Paul continues to use whatever he can to help barter with them and to give the people enough time, so the U.N. can safely evacuate everyone out of the hotel.

But it doesn’t look good for Paul and the people of the hotel as UN Col. Oliver tells them that the only evacuation that will happen is for the foreigners, none for the Rwandan people.

Despite the bad news and seeing how bad the atrocities are first hand, Paul will do all he can to help these people, divert Hutu soldiers and care for the growing number of refugees in his hotel but also maintaining the appearance of a luxury hotel even though violence and chaos is an all-time high.

Can Paul protect the 1,200 Rwandan refugees at the Hotel des Mille Collines, including his family?  Or will they all be massacred?

VIDEO:

“Hotel Rwanda” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1).  I have watched this film several times on DVD and to finally see this on Blu-ray, “Hotel Rwanda” looks fantastic.  The presentation of the film is crisp and colorful at times but also showcasing us the dire circumstances with a lot of detail.  The close-ups also sport a lot of detail and black levels are nice and deep and also sporting wonderful contrast throughout the film.  There is a good amount of grain and I didn’t see any edge enhancement or any major PQ problems during the film.

Fans of “Hotel Rwanda” will definitely see the clarity of this film compared to its DVD counterpart.  Awesome PQ!

AUDIO:

“Hotel Rwanda” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Surround and French 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The music of this film is excellent and also a good use of surround for the gunfire that happens from a distance from the hotel but also the gunshots that happen nearby during the evacuation sequences.  There are some scenes that utilize LFE but for the most part, dialogue is crystal clear through the center channel, music and sound effects from the front and ambient  effects through the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Hotel Rwanda” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Terry George, Paul Rusesabagina and select commentary with Wyclef Jean.  Very good commentary as Paul Rusesabagina talks about the differences of the film and real life.  Very insightful commentary from both Terry George and Paul Rusesabagina, while Wyclef Jean discusses  the music provided for the film.
  • Selected Scenes Commentary by Don Cheadle – (21:48) A shorter commentary for a few scenes by actor Don Cheadle.
  • Message for Peace – (27:56) Presented in standard definition.  The producer and director of “Hotel Rwanda” talks about how this film came to be, the casting of the film and also featuring Paul Rusesabagina talking about the horrors that he saw in Rwanda.
  • Return to Rwanda – (14:32) Presented in standard definition.  Paul and Tatiana Rusesabagina return to Rwanda to visit the Hotel des Milles Collines but also visit the Genocide Memorial.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:09) The original theatrical trailer for “Hotel Rwanda”

An inspiring film of a man who faced insurmountable odds during one of the worst atrocities in history.

“Hotel Rwanda” was a film that came as perfect timing in the 10th Year Anniversary after the Rwandan Genocide and part of its importance as a film is because it opened the eyes of many people who were not aware of what took place in Africa.  One of the problems for many of us outside of the Africa is we tend to learn everything about the country’s instability through the media.  And I can remember that time as media reporting civil war in Rwanda.  In fact, “civil war” is often brought up whenever there is strife in various areas in Africa.

But prior to me watching this film, I had no idea of the genocide.  “Hotel Rwanda” was crafted on intensive research and also through contacting survivors who were staying at the hotel but most importantly, through research and information provided by Paul Rusesabagina.

As Spielberg will be known for “Schindler’s List”, Terry George will be remembered for this powerful, inspiring film of the Rwandan Genocide but to show how the possibilities of an atrocity of wiping a country clean of a certain type of people can happen and nearly happened back in 1994.  While nearly a million people were being massacred, not much was being done internationally and as the U.N. Peacekeeping force did all the can in keeping the peace (and not making the peace) and anyone watching this film will be shocked of what happened.

Possibly one of the most powerful and saddest scenes in cinema history is when Paul Rusesabagina was returning back to the hotel with supplies.  As they are driving in the roadway, fog prevents them from going through and for some reason, the van seems as if it is on a rocky mountainside.  But the image of hundreds of dead bodies all over the roadway is shocking and to know that it was not a rocky mountainside they were driving, it was countless numbers of dead men, women and children all over the place.

Don Cheadle gives an Oscar-worthy performance.  It’s a memorable performance that has stuck with me for many years since the film has been released and it’s a film I have re-watched several times because it’s so powerful, inspiring but also because it’s a wonderful film.

The Blu-ray release may not have anything new added to the release but the better picture and audio quality in HD is worth recommending already!  The special features were solid when the DVD was released and also powerful, inspiring and shocking to watch as well.  The special feature with Paul and Tatiana Rusesabagina returning to Rwanda and the images we see from the Genocide Memorial is devastating.  Devastating to know that these major atrocities towards men, women and children (including fetuses) took place.

If there was any problem that I had with the film, it would be when Paul and his driver were going to get supplies and you can tell that what we see through the windows is ala green screen and it didn’t look natural.  Also, I often wondered if the U.N. were really that insensitive.  While it is known that the character of Col. Oliver was a fictitious character, we do know the character is inspired by UN force commander for UNAMIR, Romeo Dallaire.   Dallaire has made the comment that he did not agree with Nolte’s portrayal.

But there is not much for me to nitpick about this film.  It was a film done right and while the original screenplay was to feature an ensemble group of characters, I’m glad that Terry George vocalized his feeling that the film should stay focused on Paul and his wife Tatiana.  Paul in the fact that he puts everything on the line to save every refugee in the hotel but also the love he has for his wife and family.

I’m still impressed by this film each time I have watched it and if you have not seen “Hotel Rwanda” before or if you have owned the previous DVD version, I can easily recommend “Hotel Rwanda on Blu-ray.  It’s a powerful film that deserves to be seen!

Highly recommended!






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