Hotel Rwanda: Summary, History & Quotes

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: South African History Lesson Plan

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Hotel Rwanda
  • 0:36 Early Days
  • 1:38 Change in an Instant
  • 2:51 Forgotten
  • 3:51 Evacuation and Aftermath
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up


Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kelly Bryan

Kelly has taught English in four different countries, mostly recently at Dongguk University in South Korea. She has a master's degree in teaching English as a second language.

''Hotel Rwanda'' tells the story of Paul Rusesabagina, who saved a group of refugees during the 1994 Rwandan genocide by hiding them in his hotel. This lesson includes a summary of the film alongside historical facts about the Rwandan genocide.

Hotel Rwanda

The 2004 film Hotel Rwanda recounts the efforts of hotelier Paul Rusesabagina to save his family and others during the 1994 genocide in the central African nation of Rwanda. The film is a harrowing portrayal of a country losing itself in chaos as the international community looked away. Former US President Bill Clinton recalls the United States' inaction during the Rwandan genocide as one of the biggest regrets of his presidency. The gripping performance of Don Cheadle helped open viewers' eyes to the reality of this terrible tragedy.

Early Days

As the film opens, we see Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) as the manager of the Hôtel des Mille Collines, which caters to wealthy international guests. Rusesabagina is a shrewd and suave manager who knows how to keep his guests happy and comfortable, even ensuring they have fresh lobster and fine whiskey.

He says to his driver, Dube (Desmond Dube), ''If I give a businessman 10,000 francs, what does that matter to him? He is rich. But, if I give him a Cohiba cigar straight from Havana, Cuba. Hey, that is style, Dube.'' Rusesabagina is portrayed as man who knows how to keep people happy and bargain when they're not.

This scene plays out against the backdrop of complex and dangerous real-life events. Rwanda is the home to two major ethnic groups: the majority, Hutus, and the Tutsi. Between 1916 and 1962, Rwanda was a colony of Belgium. The Belgians considered the Tutsis superior to the Hutus, and gave the Tutsis more power in society as a result. After the Belgians left, tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis began to mount.

Change in an Instant

The situation takes a sudden, dark turn when the Hutu militias assassinate the Rwandan president in a plane crash. This triggers the militias to begin murdering the Tutsi population. Rusesabagina arrives home one night to find his family and neighbors hiding in his house. He decides to bring them to his hotel, using it as a safe haven.

The wealthy, Western clientele of the Hotel Mille Collines begin to evacuate Rwanda, while a UN Peacekeeping Force headed by Colonel Oliver (Nick Nolte) protects the hotel. Jack Daglish (Joaquin Phoenix), an American journalist documents the mounting atrocities.

Daglish documents the violence, and Rusesabagina encourages him to share it, certain that it will convince Western powers like the United States to come to the Rwandans' aid. However, Daglish presciently tells Rusesabagina, 'I think if people see this footage they'll say, 'oh my God that's horrible,' and then go on eating their dinners.'''

In truth, the Western governments and United Nations paid little attention to Rwanda at the time. It was a small nation and one of the poorest in Africa. The head of the UN Peacekeeping mission to Rwanda, Canadian major general Romeo Dallaire, was inexperienced and unprepared for reality on the ground in Rwanda, and his concerns went unheeded by officials back in New York.


The situation worsens when foreign aid workers are evacuated from Rwanda, including the bulk of the UN Peacekeepers protecting the hotel. Rwandan staff are not evacuated with foreign workers. Rusesabagina learns that the US, the UK, and the Belgian company that owns his hotel have refused to send aid.

Colonel Oliver bluntly and bitterly tells Rusesabagina, who was certain that help was on the way, ''You're black. You're not even a n*****. You're an African.''

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account