Shake Hands with the Devil

February 15th, 2007 DVD Reviews, Film, Xpress

While most of us were waiting with bated breath to see the outcome of the OJ Simpson murder trial, 800,000 minority Tutsi Rwandans were slaughtered with guns and machetes. With the carnage about to ensue, almost every country pulled its nationals and troops out.

Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian UN commander, stayed behind with a small detachment and both tried to stave off and stay out of the way of the wave of killings. Ten years later after his tour in Rwanda he returned to revisit the places he knew, and cameras followed, documenting his travels.

With considerably more bitterness, guilt, regret and demons to face down than many of us ever have to deal with, Dallaire travels the country, from his UN compound to the local Belgian army barracks, seeing people he knew and monuments to those he knew, trying to make sense out of it all.

Despite several glimpses of footage showing attackers hacking at their victims with blades, the 10 years anniversary memorial service is the film’s strongest coda. After token protestations they knew nothing and offhand apologies, the rest of the world sent a few low-level dignitaries, all their leaders apparently busy with something else.

As Dallaire puts it near the end of the film; maybe none of us learnt the lesson and it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.


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