He saved some but he couldn’t save them all

03/03/2011 20:27

On Thursday, March 10, at 5.45 p.m. (Room G103), the Centre for Canadian Studies will feature Shake Hands with the Devil, a film based on Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire’s eponymous award-winning book. Wielding the director’s baton, Roger Spottiswoode offers viewers a detailed factual recapitulation of the failure of international community in Rwanda through the heart-breaking story of a Canadian UN forces commander who found himself eyewitness to the African country’s descent into hell.

In 1993, Romeo Dallaire, whose character is played by the highly acclaimed Canadian actor Roy Dupuis, is dispatched to Rwanda to lead the United Nations peacekeeping force deployed in the area. Just months after the general raises the UN flag, an unknown group shoots down the President’s plane and a storm breaks out. The historically disadvantaged Hutus launch a long-planned genocidal campaign against the Tutsi minority and moderate Hutus, a slaughter that results in the death of almost a million people.

Although Romeo Dallaire has neither the authority nor sufficient forces to avert the crisis, he does his utmost to prevent the bloodshed. He is, however, rendered powerless by his own superiors and feels badly let down by the indifference of the world’s great powers, which look the other way.

It is true that this is not an enjoyable film to watch, yet it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be watched and reflected upon. Less sentimental than Hotel Rwanda, its more famous counterpart, this film is a riveting study of the dark side of human nature.