Screened as part of NZIFF 2005
Ten years after the genocide in Rwanda the world is finally watching. This documentary bears witness through the eyes of a compelling tragic hero, Canadian Lieutanant General Roméo Dallaire, who led the United Nations forces in Kigali and whose pleas for the resources that would have enabled intervention fell on unheeding ears. A decade later, addressing a commemorative conference at the University of Rwanda, Dallaire vents his undying anger and his overwhelming sense of failure: “Rwanda is black. It’s in the middle of Africa. It’s of no strategic value. And all that’s there – they tell me – are humans… And there are too many anyway. Standing here, I say to you that Roméo Dallaire, as Force Commander, failed the Rwandan people." Such bluntness makes Dallaire a perpetual thorn in the sides of the UN and of the European governments whom he continues to indict. We watch as they compound their sins a decade later by rounding on him for failing to express his condolences to the wives of the ten Belgian servicemen who died alongside the 800,000 Africans. The galvanising power of Shake Hands with the Devil lies in such demonstrations that culpable Euro-centricity did not end in Rwanda.
“Dallaire’s self-doubt seems utterly genuine – he never gives the impression of performing for the cameras and we believe him when he says he doesn’t want to be seen as a hero, even if the movie seems hell-bent on valorizing him. Suggesting an array of possible villains… Shake Hands is less about one man than about a UN structurally incapable of carrying out its peacekeeping mandate, then and now.” — Joshua Land, Village Voice