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Mainstream - Shake Hands With The Devil


Shake Hands With The Devil
Roy Dupuis, Owen Sejake
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
Seville Films 2007
Warner Home Entertainment 2008

Shake Hands With The Devil is an excellent and very hard to watch movie. The story of General Romeo Dallaire who was in charge of the U.N. peacekeeping force during the genocide in Rwanda leaves the viewer feeling helpless, stunned, and enraged that something like that could have happened. Unfortunately, you also know there will be a next time.

Shake Hands With The Devil makes you wonder why there is a United Nations. The U.N did nothing aside from holding meetings to stop the Rwandan genocide. The U.S. and British governments lobbied behind the scenes to make sure the term "genocide" was not used during the massacre for that would have obliged the U.N. to act.

Roger Spottiswoode's movie explains little but clearly testifies. It is, I guess, impossible to explain what cannot be explained. Spottiswoode shows how a good man in extreme circumstances, General Romeo Dallaire, is slowly and inexorably ripped apart by the conflict between duty and the unwillingness of his superiors to acknowledge, allow him, or even give him a semblance of tools to perform that duty. Dallaire finds himself in a situation where not only can he do nothing, as per his orders, to stop the killing of a million people, but can also do nothing because he has nothing to do it with aside from a blue beret and a spine.

Some, very few, of the people responsible for the genocide in Rwanda have been brought to justice. Many of the people also responsible for that genocide are still enjoying the privileges of a United Nations post, a career in diplomacy, and are probably in charge of another so-called peace mission.

The most telling moment in Shake Hands With The Devil is at the end of the movie when Dallaire finally gets to use his weapon. That scene alone should be played again and again at the United Nations and perhaps, one day, someone at the U.N. will understand its obvious irony.

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