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Monday, December 21, 2009

Shake Hands with the Devil

- Canadian Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire in Rwanda, 1994

This week's movie rental was the documentary Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire. I actually got it by mistake, thinking I was renting the fictionalization of the story this film tells. Still, it was grimly interesting. Here's what Wikipedia has ....

Shake Hands With the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire (2004) is a documentary film about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda .... inspired by the book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda (2003), by now-retired Canadian Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire ....

Between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in 100 days. Most of the dead were Tutsis by the hands of the Hutus .... Canadian Armed Forces General Romeo Dallaire was put in charge of a United Nations peacekeeping force during this 1994 genocide. His proposal called for 5,000 soldiers to permit orderly elections and the return of the refugees. The soldiers were never supplied and the killing began. The documentary tells the story of the now-retired Lieutenant-General Dallaire, and shows his return to Rwanda after ten years. It features interviews with Stephen Lewis and BBC reporter Mark Doyle, among others.

- on his trip back to Rwanda, ten years later

You can read more about the UN Peacekeepers and Roméo Dallaire at this Wikipedia page - Rwandan Genocide.

I tried to find a trailer, but I think this is actually the beginning of the movie .....


Blogger Deacon Denny said...

I am VERY interested in Rwanda, and will definitely look up this movie. Rwanda was a turning point in many ways. First, I think it said something to the West about the costs of "neutrality," or doing nothing, or whatever you call it. That's not to say we won't ignore the message, but it's there, right in front of us. Darfur is harder to bear because of it. Secondly, it said something to CRS and various NGOs. CRS did a major re-thinking after Rwanda.... they were supplying aid, involved with the situation, and knew there were troubles, but in general didn't see the genocide coming. They took time, and realized that peace-keeping was part of their mission. Now you will find "peacekeeping" as part of their various programs... internal to a country as well as external.

Thanks for this tip. I'll let you know what I think about the movie, though it might be a few weeks, with the holiday season.

6:08 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Yes, I'd like to hear what you think of it. I'd like to rent the fictional version too but Netflix doesn't have it. One kind of disturbing thing in both the movie and more so in the Wkipedia article was the assertion that the Catholic Church in Rwanda bears some responsibility for not speaking out against the coming violence. I have to read more about that aspect.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Deacon Denny said...

Hello again, Crystal --

Joan and I watched the movie the other night. It was almost a documentary, with clips from the time of the massacre intermingled with clips of the general, 10 years later. You saw the violence, but not up close -- either in seeing all the dead bodies after the fact, or in seeing some of the killing from a distance. It wasn't like a war... it was like a mob, only protracted and personal.

The film talks about the general being haunted... I'm sure I too would endlessly relive my decisions, wondering if I had done all I could to bring all of this to the world's attention.

As for the mention of the Catholic Church in the film, it was only a vague assertion that if the Church had forcefully stood up to what was happening, it would never have happened. I don't know whether the film was talking about the Church in Rwanda or the Church universal speaking about Rwanda. In any event, it's probably true (see my CRS comments earlier), but it's vague enough that I don't really know what to think about particular judgments or decisions being made or not.

With the U.N. and the world debate, the movie made it quite clear there were moments when the world decided to walk away from what was happening. The movie Hotel Rwanda was very good in making that clear.

Thanks for the reference.

6:27 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


This is what I read at the wikipedia page Rwandan Genocide (don't know how reliable it is) ...

Though religious factors were not prominent (the event was ethnically motivated) the Human Rights Watch reported that a number of religious authorities, particularly Roman Catholic, in Rwanda failed to condemn the genocide.[17] Some in its religious hierarchy have been brought to trial by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and convicted.[16] Bishop Misago was accused of corruption and complicity in the genocide but was cleared of all charges in 2000.[18] The majority of Rwandans, and of Tutsis in particular, are Catholic.

Let me know if you ever see the fictionalized version of the movie - I was looking forward to seeing it but it's not at Netflix.

1:24 AM  

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