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Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire

(2005) *** Unrated
90 min. California Newsreel. Director: Peter Raymont.
Many saw Hotel Rwanda, the docudramatic tale that celebrated local hero Paul Rusesabagina. Peter Raymont's documentary Shake Hands with the Devil covers similar ground, but traffics in ambiguity. It is the story of Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian general sent by the United Nations to command its peacekeeping mission in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. That mission was a frustratingly ineffectual one, doomed by international apathy and callousness, deficits of funds and personnel, and the ruthless efficiency of the Hutu murder squads, which wiped out 800,000 men, women, and children in 100 days. Dallaire could do little more than stand witness, but what he did and didn't do remain controversial to the public and, to Dallaire, the stuff of deep-seated survivor's guilt. Dallaire comes across as sincere, and Raymont recounts—through interviews with Dallaire, his colleagues, and international observers—his torment: his suicidal tendencies, second-guessing, flashbacks, and anger. Interviewees express anger at Belgian cowardice, the Catholic Church's cowardice, President Clinton's cowardice, and the U.N.'s cowardice, but Dallaire emerges as an ordinary man who, then and now, refuses to turn away from Rwanda.
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