Shake Hands With the Devil
Director Roger Spottiswode brings us the real life story of the terrible experiences of Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian who was in charge of the peacekeeping force sent in by the U.N to Rwanda upon the outbreak of war in that country in 1994, a war which saw terrible carnage and genocide. Given strict orders not to interfere and badly resourced, the film shows Dallaire’s breakdown as he becomes more and more powerless to prevent or control the atrocities that he has been sent to contain.
This docu-drama was adapted from Dalliare’s own account of his time in Rwanda and serves to show the darker side of human nature in a harrowing, powerful fashion which ultimately leaves the viewer disgusted and angry. Using the framing device of Dalliare’s time spent in counselling after his terrible experiences, the film pulls no punches in describing an accurate account of what he went through. There is no Hollywood gloss here just a real life account of a tragedy that saw thousands of men women and children being tortured, abused and exterminated.
Dalliaire is prevented time and time again by his masters in New York from taking action that could prevent these crimes against humanity, left to do nothing but watch the slaughter with no support from his superiors. Indeed, harrowingly, he and his men are at one point forced to hand over their guns then watch a bloodbath which they could have stopped had the UN not been so hidebound. Eventually, this all takes it’s toll on Dalliaire himself, leaving him shattered, broken and on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown.
Spottiswode doesn’t hold back from depicting the horrible scenes of carnage but directs with great sensitivity to the material, never glorifying or exaggerating and his cinematography is of the highest calibre, showing the stunning beauty of the country as well as accentuating the horrors of the war. Roy Dupuis is magnificent as Dalliare, particularly in the scenes where he is recounting the events to his counsellor and the supporting cast are all of the same high standard. “Shake hands with the devil” is a hard film to watch but one hat should receive as much exposure as possible. Dalliaire wrote his memoir so that the world would never forget the events of 1994 and the film can only help to spread the word. Rent it, watch it and learn from it. A provocative and important movie.