Fighting for Africa
by Marie-France Dupagne
- The American Don Cheadle, whose talent was confirmed by such films as Traffic and Ocean’s 12 is litterally rivetting in Hotel Rwanda where he plays Paul Rusesabagina
The American actor Don Cheadle whose talent was made obvious by Devil in a Blue Dress, and later confirmed by such films as Traffic, Boogie Nights, and more recently Ocean’s 12 is litterally rivetting in Hotel Rwanda where he plays Paul Rusesabagina, the manager of a hotel in Kigali who risked his life to save 1268 Rwandans from the 1994 genocide. Cheadle plays this role in a very moving and sensitive way, which earned him a nomination at the Oscars, an honour he claims to owe Africa.
How did you work on this real characted?
No sooner had I got the role, than I reached Paul Rusesabagina. I emailed and phoned him a thousand times to ask him questions. I wanted to try and understand why kind of person he was. After, when we rehearsed in Africa, he was there. I watched him all the time, picking this or that detail for my interpretation. He was really open with us and told us all about his life. I also knew Paul had been totally committed since the very first draughts so I knew I could rely on the script and follow Terry George’s every suggestion.
Can this film change people’s view of Africa ?
I really hope it will. Maybe people will see it, think ‘how horrible this African situation is’, and then go have dinner and forget it. I am well aware that a spectator’s interest in an event can last very little time, so you have to take full advantage of it when you get this attention. Hotel Rwanda has a very good website which suggests different ways of helping Africa. Without this movie, people would not even worry about what is happening now in Darfour and Congo.
You were nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor in a Leading Role. Is that important to you ?
Nominations are very useful for this kind of film. People often take nominations for actual distinctions, as is the case here. It attracts people’s attention on the African issue. I want to use my celebrity to help that cause. This film and the nomination, by awakening people’s benevolent attention, have given me the opportunity to do that now.
Don Cheadle has been interviewed at the Berlin Film Festival