The 2004 documentary Shake Hands With the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire is brutal viewing, recounting the experiences of Canadian General Roméo Dallaire as he oversaw the U.N.’s hamstrung and doomed peacekeeping efforts in Rwanda during the Hutu-led genocide of the Tutsis in 1994. Roger Spottiswoode’s drama Shake Hands With the Devil—starring Roy Dupuis (doing fine work as Dallaire) and lacking graphic footage of real-life blood-soaked environs and endless mounds of slain bodies—isn’t wrenching in the same way as its documentary predecessor, but it’s damning all the same. Told largely in flashback as a suicidal Dallaire shares with a therapist all he bore witness to, the new film details the behind-the-scenes politicking of Europe and the U.S., which ensured that peacekeeping efforts would be cosmetic, at best. Though the film, based on Dallaire’s memoir, can veer toward deification of the general, it’s hugely effective in illustrating the grotesque power plays (from Belgium’s colonizing of Rwanda in 1916, during which the Tutsis and Hutus were intentionally pitted against one another, to the flexing of young Hutu aggressors) that led to the deaths of more than 800,000 Tutsis.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 10, 2010