Published Apr 01, 2005In April of 1994, Canadian General Roméo Dallaire was assigned by the United Nations to oversee a peacekeeping unit in the troubled African nation of Rwanda. Six months later, approximately 800,000 people had been brutally slaughtered and Dallaire returned to Canada troubled by the horrific images that he had come to bear witness to.
Shaking off nearly a decade of silence, Dallaire recently addressed the events in his book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, and in April of 2004 returned with acclaimed director Peter Raymont to Rwanda for the first time since the genocide. The visit is the subject of the powerful documentary Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire and records with stirring poignancy the consequences of war on the mind of a man.
Dallaire revisits sites where acts of unfathomable cruelty were burned into his memory and Raymont provides him with a safe space to explore his frustration, anger and profound sadness. We hear about the woefully undermanned UN force comprised of soldiers from countries with competing agendas, the inexperience of the peacekeepers who dismissed brutal agitator as "clowns" and the horrific indifference of the outside world to it all.
Most appalling of all, however, is the lack of fortitude and foresight shown by the UN and their inability to support their own forces when they were most in need, a fact that Special Envoy to the UN Stephen Lewis describes, rightfully, as "cowardly beyond imagining."
Although the film's straightforward documentary style is more journalistic in its aesthetic, it does not deter from the weight of the film. Dallaire's damaged but unbreakable spirit makes for a heartbreaking and inspiring portrait of heroism. (White Pine)