Published May 16, 2013In 1993, the now-retired General, Roméo Dallaire, served as the force commander of UNAMIR, the U.N. peacekeeping force in Rwanda that tried to prevent Hutu extremists from committing genocide on the Tutsi populace. Having saved the lives of thousands through his efforts, working within the confines of the U.N.'s mission statement to thwart the efforts of the Rwandan Armed Forces, his hellish experience has touched many, inspiring the 2004 documentary Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire (which was based on his book, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda) as well as the 2007 feature-length narrative film of the same name.
Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children is, in part, a sequel to this story of genocide, taking a tangential look at the issue of child soldiers amidst the still tumultuous political landscape of Rwanda within a modern context. Focusing on Dallaire's journey back to the locale, it mixes narration from his book to frame a series of interviews with escaped child soldiers and expert testimonies from insiders, using different tactics to fight the efforts made by LAR extremists, as well as other extremist militia groups.
After establishing the Canadian Senator as a subject, Patrick Reed's highly informative and propulsive doc dives into a bevy of expository information, detailing the various political factions throughout the region, broadly outlining some of the ways the issue is being combated. In addition to using radio frequencies to tell child soldiers that the U.N. will aid in their escape, Dallaire and team engage in rescue missions and interview rebel leaders to open a peaceful dialogue in an effort to handle this plight without added bloodshed.
And while Dallaire's disposition is one of heart and sincerity, doing his best to defend these children and help them escape into a new life, the other experts in the field offer more practical observations about recrudescence and the brick wall of corruption. It's these latter testimonies about treating the cause of the issue rather than the symptoms that hold more weight but since the documentary vacillates between focusing on Dallaire and the child soldiers, both as distinct subjects, these arguments are fragmented and unfocused.
Reed bookends the film with personal revelations from the author and general in an attempt to give Dallaire some complexities and hidden motivations for his life work. But because Dallaire's sweet-natured idealism taints the otherwise insightful discussions and horrifying child soldier recruitment tales, there's an imbalance in tone and focus. Just as we're getting a sense of the bigger picture of the situation, the film steps back to a contrived barbershop scene of the U.N. peacekeeper asking an ex-soldier if he prefers cutting hair to killing people, which hinders integrity.
Still, amidst the fluff and occasional short-sighted political posturing are some very astute observations and shocking first-person confessionals that help shed light on the state of humanity in a country undergoing constant turmoil and change. (White Pine)