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MOVIES: Real horror is full of fear; HOTEL RWANDA (12A.

Byline: ROZ LAWS

THIS compelling tale of survival and compassion is all the more remarkable because it is quite trueIt's 1994 and Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) is a manager at a fourstar hotel in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

The African nation is divided into two warring tribes, Hutu and Tutsi, and he knows that a recently-brokered peace agreement is fragile. So he banks up favours for the future by keeping in with the people in power. He greases the wheels with a Cuban cigar here, a bottle of Scotch there.

A Hutu, he's charismatic and likeable - a good family man who tries to maintain the hotel's standards even when fighting breaks out.

AsHutu rebels start murdering their Tutsi neighbours, Paul offers shelter to hundreds whose lives are in danger. But by doing so he becomes a target himself - especially as his wife Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo) is a Tutsi. Nick Nolte is the United Nationspeace-keeping colonel who does his best to protect those in the hotel, but whose hands are tied. Then the UN troops are ordered to leave.

The Rwandans are shocked when they realise the rest of the world isn't going to intervene. Foreign governments try to get their own citizens out but sit back while a million Africans are massacred.

Perhaps some of the impact is lost and the true horror incompletely conveyed because we never actually see anyone being killed. It's a remarkably bloodless production.

But there is one chilling scene where Paul is driving along a bumpy road, returning to the hotel at dawn after trying to get supplies. Then the mistlifts and we see that he's been driving over dozens of bodies, piling up into the distance.

Cheadle is utterly believable as one man desperate to save his family and help as many others as he can. The pervading air of fear and panic gripped me from start to finish.

Hotel Rwanda deserved to be nominated for three Oscars. Cheadle is excellent and British actress Okonedo is solid, although hardly on screen enough to make a big impact.

Harrowing and powerful, this is not pleasant viewing but it's a film you're not likely to forget in a hurry

CAPTION(S):

SAFE HOUSE: Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina offers shelter to children whose lives are in danger; HIDING: Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo) tries to protect children
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 6, 2005
Words:390
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