Shake Hands With The Devil Roger Spottiswoode

Shake Hands With The Devil Roger Spottiswoode
In the spring of 1994, the president of Rwanda died in a mysterious plane crash, plunging this African nation into genocide. With machetes and guns, the majority Hutus slaughtered between half-a-million to a million minority Tutsis. The UN was in place to preserve the fragile peace but failed to lift a finger during the slaughter.

In command of the UN Peacekeepers was Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, who fought complacent UN leaders while fending off the hordes attempting to butcher innocent civilians. Too often though he helplessly watched the slaughter. Dallaire would return to Canada, haunted by his experience and drowning in drink until he went public with this story to redeem himself.

This dramatisation is based on Dallaire’s memoirs yet only partial succeeds in translating the general’s tortured experience to the big screen. Quebec superstar Roy Dupuis (The Rocket) is convincing as Dallaire, though at times he appears more wooden than stoic. Deborah Unger plays a sympathetic Western journalist whom Dallaire uses as his mouthpiece.

The film falters not in the performances but in the hands of director Spottiswoode. Sure, credit him and the producers for shooting on location in Kigali and employing many actual survivors as extras. However, there are too many teary eyes and lingering close-ups. Flashes to Dallaire sitting in a Canadian shrink’s office are a missed opportunity and should have been used to anchor the tale and reveal Dallaire’s fragile inner state.

The overall story is strangely flat and fails to build to a satisfying climax. Instead, check out Peter Raymont’s award-winning documentary of the same name. (Seville)