Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
All that separates Rwanda’s Hutu and Tutsi people is an arbitrary class system propped up by long-departed colonizing nations. As commerce filled the void, Rwandans like assistant hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina believed persistent ambition and patience would bring prosperity.
Like Schindler’s List, 2004’s Hotel Rwanda showed how the madness of genocide and war converted one man’s context of wealth and success from capitalism to humanitarianism.
As 1994’s Hutu-Tutsi civil war raged, Rusesabagina hid thousands of Tutsi and Hutu refugees in the Hotel des Mille Collines — which also became a staging area for U.N. troops and a militia target.
Don Cheadle honors Rusesabagina by tapping his brave face and internal rage — a man who saw his capital gains cleaned out by civil war. Although above discrimination through a mixed-ethnicity marriage, Rusesabagina emotionally tabled activism for the sake of financial stability.
Whether a gruesome discovery on a bootleg-supply run or a romantic respite with his wife (Sophie Okonedo) that becomes a hard sell for their family to consider suicide if necessary, director Terry George never lost sight of Rusesabagina’s hellish personal risks.
George also doesn’t avoid the circumstance that the world’s foreign-policy solution largely was to let play out what left a million Rwandans dead. (Nick Nolte’s U.N. colonel delivers a speech damnable and detestable only because it reeks of depressingly accepted truth.)
Political and economic reforms have since transformed Rwanda into a model of renewal. Praise policies, but also the inspirational refusal of Rwandans like Rusesabagina to let despair kill spirit.