Shake Hands With the Devil

( Canada / 2004 )
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In 100 nightmarish days more than 800,000 men, women, and children were brutally murdered during the Rwandan genocide. The victims were Tutsi and moderate Hutus who supported them. Canadian General Roméo Dallaire was thrown into a country he barely understood, leading a small contingent of largely ill-equipped troops who did not want to be there. Unsupported by U.N. headquarters, Dallaire and his handful of soldiers were incapable of stopping the killing. This experience led to Dallaire's own life tragedy as he dealt with the psychological fallout of witnessing a genocide he was powerless to stop.
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Formats: Digital Copy, DVD
Running Time: 91 min.
Theme: Biography, Conflicts, Genocide, History, Human Rights, Military, Politics, Society
Language(s): English
Director(s): Peter Raymont
Producer(s): Peter Raymont, Lindalee Tracey
Cinematographer: John Westheuser
Editor(s): Michèle Hozer
Excluded regions: Canada
Shake Hands With the Devil

Press

  • Press Kit
  • Raymont's film, with Dallaire as the main voice and news footage from 1994, lays out a compelling, compact story.
    Desson Thomson, WASHINGTON POST
  • A far more resonant film than that offered by concurrent narrative feature Hotel Rwanada
    Scott Foundas, VARIETY
  • It gives us a man who could have stopped the carnage -- 800,000 murdered in 100 days -- but whose hands were bound at the highest level. He knows this, it haunts him, and if it doesn't shame you, it should.
    Ty Burr, BOSTON GLOBE
  • Shake Hands is less about one man than about a U.N. structurally incapable of carrying out its peacekeeping mandate, then and now
    Joshua Land, VILLAGE VOICE
  • Like Dallaire's bestselling autobiography, which provides the movie's basis, the film is part therapeutic personal exorcism and part passionate humanitarian indictment.
    Geoff Pevere, TORONTO STAR
  • A fascinating account of its subject's self-torture over his inability to stop one of the 20th century's greatest tragedies.
    Frank Scheck, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
  • This wonderful, devastating documentary is as much Dallaire's story as it is the story of a whole continent abandoned by a cynical world
    Elia Taylor, L.A. WEEKLY
  • A tragic reminder of how that overused epithet, 'Never again', makes hypocrites of us all
    Jamie Woolley, BBC

Academic Notes

  • Big-eyed, wide-eyed, sad-eyed children: Constructing the humanitarian space in social justice documentaries, by Debbie James Smith
    "Shake Hands with the Devil is presented as a reminder of the repercussions of moral apathy. Inthis film, producer Peter Raymont tells the story of the Rwandan genocide based on theautobiography of Lt-General Roméo Dallaire, commander of the United Nations peacekeepingmission to Rwanda in 1994. The film follows Dallaire on a return trip to Rwanda a decade after the genocide. He visits his former post and recounts the historic events that led to the genocide asthey were revealed to him, and then he recounts the genocide itself. Adding to this tragic story,this film also documents the precariousness of Dallaire’s mental health as a result of his self-identified post-traumatic stress which seemingly encourages speculation that he will succumbthis time to his feelings of guilt as result of his inability to stop the genocide."

awards & accolades

  • Toronto International Film Festival, Canada - Canada's Top Ten Award
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, USA - Nominated for Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary
  • Banff Television Festival, Canada - Best Feature Length Documentary
  • Directors Guild of Canada - DGC Team Award for Outstanding Team Achievement in a Documentary
  • DGC Team Award for Outstanding Team Achievement in a Documentary - Best Picture Editing in a Documentary, Best Direction in a Documentary Program, Best Photography in a Documentary, Best Sound in a Documentary
  • Sundance Film Festival, USA - Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary
  • Philadelphia Film Festival, USA - ury Award for Best Documentary

Festival participation

  • Toronto International Film Festival, Canada 2004
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, USA 2005
  • Banff Television Festival, Canada 2005
  • Directors Guild of Canada 2005
  • DGC Team Award for Outstanding Team Achievement in a Documentary 2005
  • Sundance Film Festival, USA 2005
  • Philadelphia Film Festival, USA 2005
  • Vancouver International Film Festival, Canada 2004
  • Göteborg International Film Festival, Sweden 2005
  • Amnesty International Human Rights Film Festival, Netherlands 2005
  • Bermuda International Film Festival, Bermuda 2005
  • Istanbul International Film Festival, Turkey 2005
  • Minneapolis Film Festival, USA 2005
  • Nashville Film Festival, USA 2005
  • Silver Docs Film Festival, USA 2005

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Additional Info


Production Company: White Pine Pictures (c) 2004 Investigative Producti
Distribution Company: Films Transit

  • I’m embarrassed to tell you that, like most people, I “missed” the Rwanda genocide. I vaguely remember media reports of tribal warfare in an obscure central-African country. But almost every night during those 100 days (April-June, 1994) the OJ Simpson Trial and the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident dominated the news.

    After the horrific mass killings in Rwanda ended, we began hearing about Lt. General Roméo Dallaire – the Canadian who commanded the UN troops that were supposed to keep peace in Rwanda – the man who had since attempted suicide, unable to live with the horrific demons that haunt him. After I returned from Rwanda where I’d made another documentary, five years after the genocide, I became determined to track down Roméo Dallaire and see if we could make a film together – in Rwanda.

    Although part of him wanted to return, General Dallaire wasn’t quite ready to go back. He was struggling to write his extraordinary book; he was undergoing therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder; he needed to testify at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. And part of him wasn’t sure if going back made sense. What purpose would it serve? How would it affect him?

    But after much discussion, Dallaire decided he was ready and able to return in April, 2004. It was the 10th anniversary of the genocide, the Rwandan government had invited him, and he wanted to show his wife, Elizabeth, the special people and places that had taken over his life.

    I was honoured that General Dallaire decided to trust me with his story. With financing in place (CBC, Rogers Documentary Fund, Canadian TV Fund), and a talented crew onboard (cameraman John Westheuser, sound-recordist, Ao Loo, PM Patrick Reed, interpreter Jean-Thierry Nkulikiyumukiza and stills photographer Peter Bregg) we arrived in Rwanda for two exhilarating and exhausting weeks.

    This film documents that extraordinary emotional journey – back to the killing fields, back to confront the devil, back to break bread with Rwandans who, like Dallaire, had managed to survive the carnage. Our documentary weaves together this return journey with a chronicle of the genocide itself. Back home in Toronto, we shot several interviews: Dallaire’s two Military Assistants in Rwanda, Brent Beardsley and Phil Lancaster; writer Gerald Caplan; UN Special Envoy, Stephen Lewis; CBC’s Michael Enright, Elizabeth Dallaire; and, finally an exhausting four hour debrief with General Dallaire himself.

    In the caring hands of skilled editor Michèle Hozer, a tale of horror, deceit, duplicity and ultimately heroism emerged. I found myself having to confront the nature of evil. What is it in human nature that drives people to pick up a machete, go next door, and hack their neighbour to death? What other force of evil turns otherwise decent men and women at the United Nations or in the White House into passive bystanders as 800,000 innocent men, women and children are slaughtered? Despite their denials, these people knew what was happening in Rwanda. Almost daily, General Dallaire sent urgent faxes and made desperate phone calls, pleading for reinforcements that never came and an expanded mandate that was never given.

    This is the story of one man who cared, who believes we are our brother’s keeper, who put his life on the line to save tens of thousands of others, who understands that the value of a human life in Rwanda is equal to a human life anywhere in the world. We are proud to share this extraordinary journey with you.

    Peter Raymont

    “Our film is about one man’s struggle to stop the genocide in Rwanda – and then confront the demons that haunt him still. In shaping the film, I was telling a horrific tale of horror, deceit, duplicity and ultimately heroism.

    The most difficult challenge was confronting the nature of evil. What is it in human nature that drives people to pick up a machete, go next door, and hack their neighbour to death? What other force of evil turns otherwise decent men and women at the United Nations or in the White House into passive bystanders as 800,000 innocent men, women and children are slaughtered? Despite their denials, these people knew what was happening in Rwanda. Almost daily, General Dallaire sent urgent faxes and made desperate phone calls, pleading for reinforcements that never came and an expanded mandate that was never given.

    Our filmmaking team was honoured to have the opportunity to tell the story of one man who cared, who believes we are our brother’s keeper, who put his life on the line to save tens of thousands of others, who understands that the value of a human life in Rwanda is equal to a human life anywhere in the world.”

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Shake Hands With the Devil

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