Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romßo Dallaire (Peter Raymont) 90 minutes. Opens Friday (February 18) at Camera and Bloor. For venues and times, see Rep & Indie Film, page 90. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Shake Hands With The Devil does more than just track Roméo Dallaire as he confronts his demons. It's really the final chapter of - and kind of closure to - Dallaire's long attempt to exorcise the horrors of watching over a massacre he was powerless to stop.
The documentary follows the retired lieutentant general as he returns to Rwanda for the first time since his doomed peacekeeping mission in 1994. He tours monuments and tombs lined with skulls, delivers a speech at a university and visits the UN bunker where his understaffed detail blared Stompin' Tom Connors in the hope of blocking out the sounds of shelling. He remembers and mourns on this, the 10th anniversay of the tragedy
The film includes just enough history to provide necessary context. But it's the incongruous details of the horror, paired with the very normalness of Dallaire himself, that make this documentary gripping. He looks less like Nick Nolte, who plays a fictionalized version of Dallaire in Hotel Rwanda, than like a suburban granddad.
The best moments are uncontrived. At a conference on the legacy of the massacre, a Belgian politician tries to score points by assailing the Canadian general for failing to protect murdered Belgian peacekeepers. Dallaire's disgust at being again confronted with the kind of bureaucratic and political machinations that led to the Rwandan tragedy in the first place makes more of a statement than all the talking heads warning that it could happen again.