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January 31, 2005 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-01-31

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January 31, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
artspage@michigandaily. com




King Wilkie performs on the second night of the Ann Arbor Folk Festival.


By Zach Borden
Daily Arts Writer

In 1994, the civil war in Rwanda reached a
climax when extremist members of the Hutu

tribe attempted to wipe out
the entire Tutsi tribe. Near-
ly one million Tutsis were
massacred while most of the
world turned a blind eye.
In the midst of all this
turmoil is Paul Ruseabagina
(Don Cheadle) - the tal-
ented manager of the lush,

At the
Michigan Theater

Director and co-writer Terry George has done
a superb job with "Hotel Rwanda." He has taken
an ambitious subject, focused it correctly and
made an informative film. Unfortunately, the
movie falters when George tacks on moments
clearly meant to manipulate audiences. Despite
the film's efficacious imagery showing just
how brutal the killings of the Tutsi were, there
are extraneous moments when the tragedy of
the murders is brought up for the sake of added
emotional weight. Also, Paul's devotion to his
wife (Sophie Okonedo, "Dirty Pretty Things")
becomes overemphasized, and the focus on the
Rwandan orphans seems like a ploy to make
watchers feel guilty.
Still, George wisely keeps the focus of this
true story on Paul's evolution as a person, rath-
er than concentrating entirely on the genocide.
The film is very much Paul's story, and works
incredibly well because of Cheadle's flawless
performance. Moving up from reliable support-
ing player, Cheadle proves that he has what it
takes to be an charismatic leading performer.
Cheadle reaches deep as a man who is at first
interested in his family's survival, but soon

Courtesy of
plays Paul
hero of the
discovers that his skill in dealing with people
can only go so far. Cheadle effortlessly conveys
Paul's desperation and quick thinking, as well
as his fears, frustration and growing courage.
Besides Cheadle, the supporting performanc-
es are also impressive. Okonedo holds her own
as Paul's Tutsi wife Tatiana, whose sadness
rightfully tugs at the heart, but whose familial
love brings the conflicted manager much inner
strength. Nick Nolte plays up his gruffness, as
usual, as a United Nations peacekeeper who
essentially can do nothing, but does his best to
help Paul save the refugees.
"Hotel Rwanda" is a significant film, one
that was clearly made to tell an empowering.if
less-familiar story to a wide audience. Despite
the chilling subject matter, the movie perfectly
encompasses messages of love, survival and
compassion. The story hits all the right emo-
tional chords, and Cheadle delivers a pow-
erhouse performance. "Hotel Rwanda" is an
astounding reminder of the cruelty of apathy,
the constant existence of incongruous hatred
and proof that one man can make an altruistic

Continued from page 1A
the Blind Boys announced, "We
didn't come all the way from Ala-
bama to find Jesus. We brought him
with us!"
The Boys had vocal skill and
endurance surpassing most 20-
something pop stars, and by the end
of their set it was clear that they had
more passion and energy than the
bandmates half their age.
Headliners The Indigo Girls were
in good spirits when they took the
stage late Friday. Their vocals were
feminine and fierce, but the music
was notably rough and raw. The
Girls mentioned that it was the first
time they'd played together in two
months. "We're not really practic-
ers, as you can probably tell, but we
play from the heart."
On Saturday, Ottawa native and
Juno Award winner Lynn Miles
graced the stage in a bright blue
velvet blazer. She effortlessly sailed
through the higher octaves while
poignantly recalling lost loves in
her trademark whispery alto.
Whit Hill, whose unusual voice
had the low drawl of Lucinda Wil-
liams and the yodeling vibrato
of Dolly Parton, played what she
called, "beatnik-tinged country
music." Backed by her band The
Postcards, Hill played through a
short set of simple, expressive and
unabashedly sentimental songs.
Traditional English singer David
Jones moseyed up thereafter. He
sang a capella English folk songs,
sea shanties and children's songs;
his strong baritone voice and thick

English accent reverberating in the
auditorium. Jones looked like a
husky sea dog with his white beard
and worn baseball cap - a man that
might be seen sailing an old boat
around Cape Cod, fishing and sing-
ing to himself.
King Wilkie, the amicable blue-
grass sextet from Virginia consist-
ing of six strapping young men
under the age of 27 who, with shag-
gy hair and vintage blazers, look
like a Strokes' side project. Wield-
ing a violin, stand-up bass, banjo,
dulcimer and two acoustic guitars,
their sound was classic, organic, and
genuine as they performed origi-
nal tunes as well as classic covers
(Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep
Last Night," for example).
Richard Thompson, the charis-
matic Saturday headliner, gave a
personable performance despite his
tall frame and intimidating demean-
or. With his deep, rumbling voice,
Thompson dipped into an extensive
repertoire of folk, blues, and blue-
grass for his set. His songs were
powerful, fierce and beautifully
The highlight was a Randy New-
man-esque ditty that could have
been the nerdiest and most genuine
seduction song ever. "I like a girl in
satin/ Who talks dirty in Latin ...
I've got the hots for the smarts/ IQ
off the charts/ give me brains over
Like all of the musicians who
participated in the two day festi-
val, Thompson seemed immensely
grateful to be involved in the thriv-
ing neo-folk scene being celebrated
at Hill this weekend.

four-star Hotel Milles Collines in Kigali. Paul
knows how to do his job and please his guests,
yet when the political situation becomes much
more intense, Paul finds himself taking in Tutsi
refugees at his hotel. As Rwanda faces total
anarchy, he must use his connections, special
resources and bribery to keep them safe. Ulti-
mately, Paul saved nearly 1,300 lives with his




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