In the past few years, at least six feature films and documentaries have been made about the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
Viewers with subject-matter fatigue should know that Shake Hands With The Devil, the newest film on the massacre, is worth seeing for the performance from Roy Dupuis.
Shake Hands With The Devil recreates the harrowing experiences of Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire in Rwanda during the genocide. The film is based on Dallaire's book of the same name.
Dallaire, who is a Canadian, was the head of a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda. The film fills in some of the history of bad blood between the Hutu and Tutsi people and shows the various factions involved in what would grow to be the slaughter of almost a million people -- while the rest of the world looked the other way.
The film slowly creates a frankly sickening tension in depicting the lead-up to the mass murder of Tutsi and Hutu moderates by Hutu extremists. The genocide was preventable, but the Rwandan people were abandoned by everyone who might have helped, among them the UN National Security Council and various governments and world powers, including the United States. There was almost no news coverage of the events in Rwanda -- at the time, America was busy watching O.J. Simpson flee in a white Bronco.
While others left the country in haste, Lt-Gen. Dallaire stayed in Rwanda to do what he could to keep the peace and protect as many people as possible; he was betrayed, lied to, forced to comply with ridiculous orders and finally abandoned, but through sheer force of personality and immense courage he managed to save the lives of thousands of people.
It cost him his health, both physical and psychological.
Shake Hands With The Devil shows snippets of Dallaire's descent into a sort of personal hell, the aftermath of what he experienced in Rwanda.
Dallaire would really prefer that this part of his life not be public, but he has said that if it helps educate people about soldiers and post-traumatic stress disorder , then it's worthwhile.
Roy Dupuis has managed a portrayal of Dallaire that is downright uncanny. So perfect is Dupuis in this role that even Dallaire forgot he was watching an actor -- and not himself -- the first time he saw the movie.
Shake Hands With The Devil is a fascinating but imperfect film. It feels plodding at times, flat in its presentation of historical facts and figures; at other times, it threatens to slide into melodrama.
The filmmaking is a bit scrappy. Still, it's worth seeing, and anyone who wants to know more about Dallaire or the genocide should also rent the documentary on the subject by Peter Raymont. The title of that Emmy-winning film is Shake Hands With The Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire.
Just so you know.
(This film is rated 14-A)
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