In August 1993, Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire, a Canadian, was invited to lead the UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda, the ex-Belgian colony in east Africa where civil war was escalating and mass genocide was just around the corner. Dallaire suffered inaction from the international community and struggled to maintain his doomed mission with barely 450 men. This documentary (following his published memoirs of the same name) trails Dallaire on his return to Rwanda on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the genocide in 2004. Now 59, he is a charismatic, self-effacing and straight-talking presence who has recently emerged from his own personal hell: he was a broken man when he left Rwanda in August 1994. He fell into depression, which culminated in alcohol abuse, a suicide attempt and the need for long-term counselling. Here, Dellaire returns to the killing fields, visits mass graves, talks to survivors and makes a speech at the National University of Rwanda in which he admits that both he and the world ‘failed’ the country. It’s an illuminating viewpoint from which to re-examine the genocide in Rwanda, and the documentary works as a valuable companion to recent feature treatments such as ‘Sometimes in April’ and ‘Hotel Rwanda’ (in which Nick Nolte plays a character similar to Dallaire). Most moving is a frustrating sense of plus ça change when it becomes clear that international representation at the 10th anniversary event is paltry and token. As a former UN soldier says on the film, more people cared about the OJ Simpson case in 1994 than the deaths of nearly a million Rwandans. There’s scant sign here that attitudes have changed significantly.
Friday August 5 2005