Shake Hands with the Devil

Shake Hands with the Devil, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, has clearly upped the ante from Hotel Rwanda, Political Film Society awardwinner of 2004. Whereas hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina saved the lives of 1,200 Tutsis, Roméo Dallaire (played by Roy Dupuis) saves 26,000 lives as commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda in 1994. The film, based on Dallaire’s Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda (2003), begins with titles that provide a brief history of Rwanda, including the Belgian legacy of dividing Hutus from Tutsis. Then Dallaire is in a psychiatrist’s office, with Dallaire articulating suicidal thoughts. Next, in docudrama fashion, he is appointed head the UN mission with the assignment of monitoring a demilitarized zone between the rival groups that are eager to resume civil war. Detailed accounts of Dallaire’s efforts to negotiate peace, get the UN and the United States involved to stop the genocide, view perhaps more dead bodies than found at Auschwitz, and save as many innocents as he can serve (after handshakes with doublecrossers) serve to explain why he has a breakdown. The film, nominated by the Political Film Society for best film on human rights and best film exposé of 2011, opened in Hollywood only a few days after release of his latest book, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers, though the film was held up three years after completion in 2007. MH