The cast and crew do an excellent job putting Dallaire's story [based on his written account, "Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda"] on screen, with stand-out performances from French-Canadian Roy Dupuis (as Dallaire) and Rwandan actress/writer Odile Katesi Gakire (as Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana). All scenes were shot in Rwanda on the locations where the actual events took place, providing a haunting sense of reality.
The film offers unique insight into perhaps one of the most terrible events of recent history, but it is not light fare; expect to be moved by heroism as you are simultaneously beaten over the head with human ineptitude and cruelty. Certainly it is the type of film that might cause some to question whether it is really necessary for Western movie-goers to put themselves through such a version (albeit an attenuated one) of the suffering of others. Perhaps it is indeed worthwhile if sharing the burdens of history might somehow offer humanity a degree of vaccination against larger tragedy in the future.
Odile Katesi Gakire suggests that the sharing of these stories also has a subtle, but deeper significance, one that even the pessimist who believes human tragedy unavoidable would not deny:
"It is important to speak of what happened. There are so many histories which we (Rwandans) debate. There are no history classes in school, so it is important to have many points of view so that in the end we can find one common story. We all have a personal history and perhaps in the end we can come out with a national history."
"Shake Hands with The Devil" opened at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, and is now playing at the ByTowne Cinema here in Ottawa.