Shake Hands With The Devil: The Journey Of Romeo Dallaire

on May 13, 2005 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
The deserved winner of the Audience Best Documentary award at Sundance, "Shake Hands with the Devil" devastatingly revisits the 1994 Rwanda genocide of more than 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, through the eyes of the Canadian Lieutenant General who tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to save them. Heading up a United Nations peacekeeping force, Romeo Dallaire quickly found out that he was neither allowed nor expected to do anything to stave off the imminent massacres of the Tutsis and moderate Hutus who refused to participate in the killings. Despite warnings that something horrible was going to happen, the U.N. and the Western world refused to act and, when the murders started, were only interested in saving their own expatriates. Dallaire, however, could not accept that, and did everything possible to rescue as many Rwandans as he could, despite the many obstacles put in his path. Upon returning home, guilt-ridden because he could not do more, he descended into alcoholic episodes and psychological torment before writing a book--"Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda"--and going public with his story, which helped cure him of his ills.

Peter Raymont's film takes off from those facts and accompanies Dallaire as he returns to Rwanda 10 years after the genocide and reacquaints himself with the people and places of that horrible time. It's a highly moving film and also an angry one, as Dallaire bitterly indicts the U.N. and countries such as Belgium and France for their culpability in the genocide. Articulate, forthright and strong-minded, he emerges as a genuine hero who, nonetheless, didn't see what he did as heroic and still carries the emotional scars of his mission. Dallaire, who was the loose basis for Nick Nolte's character in the powerful feature film "Hotel Rwanda," brings the horror home while reminding us that, as in Darfur, it's beginning to happen again. "Shake Hands with the Devil" is as timely as movies get. Directed and produced by Peter Raymont. A White Pines release. Documentary. Not yet rated. Running time: 91 min

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