Shake Hands With The Devil: The Journey Of Romeo Dallaire Review

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In 2004, General Romeo Dallaire returned to Rwanda - the place he had been assigned by the UN to keep the peace shortly before and during the Tutsi genocide ten years earlier. Visiting areas of key significance to himself and the atrocity, he guides us through his side of the story.


This documentary is everything you could want and expect it to be. It's an utterly astonishing story - parts of which will be sadly familiar, plus a few new jaw-dropping revelations (the Belgian politician with the gall to try and spin the blame for one of the key events back onto Dallaire at a press conference, for one), but it's the day to day details, and the staggering that will stay with you. We're shown humanity at its worst, and not just when Rwandans are killing each other - but there is also the nature of recovery, both personal and on a wider level.

Perhaps what's most commendable is the restraint on display. There's no agenda, and there's certainly no Moore-aganda antics. This isn't a retelling of the whole catastrophe, it's very much a personal account, and it's here that Shake Hands succeeds by focusing on the task at hand so resolutely. Dallaire – still largely unrecognised for his valiant efforts in the absolute worst of situations, is revealed to be a great man disguised as an ordinary one. Honest, straight talking and back from the brink of madness, the former General is initially hesitant about returning to his former post, but ends up keen to tell his story to his wife at his side, to the survivors, and to us, with all the tenacity of an obsessive-compulsive trying to scrub away the stain of a guilt that isn't his.

There are graphic images – notorious footage of roadside machete killings in the middle distance of a hidden camera's wide frame is used, which should absolutely be seen (perhaps then it will stick in people's minds and prevent us from ignoring the next genocide attempt).

Sure, it's heavy going. The opening credits show a UN vehicle having to drive around both pieces of a beheaded corpse lying on a road, and by the end of it you'll be ashamed to be a human being, but remarkably, you won't be without hope; if Romeo Dallaire can, a decade on, survive the demons of what he tried – and failed – to do, then there's a chance for us all.

Given that, adding insult to gravest injury, the First World sent only token delegates to the tenth anniversary memorial of an incident they would prefer to forget as easily it was ignored in the first place, this story deserves a fully focussed place before a brightly burning spotlight.