Thursday, September 27, 2007

Shake Hands with the Devil

Earlier this week Laurianne won tickets to see a pre-screening of the new film, Shake Hands with the Devil. Thus, last night, we headed to the World Exchange Plaza in downtown Ottawa to watch the official selection of the 2007 Toronto film festival. The film is based on Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire's riveting account of leading the UN force in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. Roy Dupuis plays Dallaire in a strong performance that is certain to garner critical attention. Dupuis is a talented French-Canadian actor whom Anglophones might recognize from The Rocket (aka Maurice Richard) or the made-for-tv movie about the Dion quintuplets.
Movie aficionados might recall Nick Nolte's impassioned performance as a temperamental French-Canadian named Colonel Roy in the 2002 film Hotel Rwanda. The character of Colonel Roy was modeled after Dallaire but seemed to more closely resemble Nick Nolte. Roy Dupuis avoids the trap of overacting in a subdued but ultimately effective performance. In fact, it is Dupuis' quiet control that allows him to tap into the pensive grief that almost drove Dallaire to suicide.
Throughout the film, the movie goes back and forth between what happened in 1994 and a therapy session in which Dallaire wrestles with his post-traumatic stress. The therapy session is shot in a darkly lit room with characters from the 1994 events appearing and disappearing to not only give retrospective observations, but also to show Dallaire's struggle with despair. The filmmakers made the right decision not to include Dallaire's family in the movie. While they are, no doubt, an important part of his journey, the movie would have been too crowded if it had tried to show the effect the ordeal had on his family.
I have now seen four movies dealing with the Rwandan genocide: Hotel Rwanda, Shooting Dogs, Sometimes in April, and Shake Hands with the Devil. Each movie is strong on its own, but I feel that Shake Hands with the Devil and Sometimes in April were more effective in bringing an understanding of the background of the genocide. Also, shooting in Rwanda and using actual Rwandan actors and extras brings a realism to the latter three films which Hotel Rwanda was unable to tap. While Hotel Rwanda was an excellent film, I was more emotionally affected by the other three.
One main reason that I feel Shake Hands with the Devil was so strong was that the beautiful mountain scenery of Rwanda is almost a character on its own. The stark contrast between the brutality and sheer evil of the genocide and the breath-taking beauty of the Rwandan countryside is gut-wrenching. The cinematography of this movie is well-done and deserves recognition.
The film does an excellent job of bringing Dallaire's important book to the big screen. Viewers have a deep sense of Dallaire's horrible journey through those dark days of 1994. While I had sad sense of the horror and despair of the genocide, the heroic stand of one man in the face of international apathy and political tap-dancing offered a glimmer of hope.
There are very few films that leave the audience walking out of the theatre in stunned silence and introspection. This movie was one of those films: a strong, emotionally-evocative, and startling work that will hopefully stir people to both contemplate and react to the world around them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This weekend my family came up to visit. We had quite a nice time visiting the art gallery, hiking in the Gatineau Hills, and watching the Office.

Here's a commemorative picture of Christina on a lonely walk through the woods:
Here's a picture of Christina and I conquering the world:
Here's Christina consolidating power:

Here's a picture that Laurianne took on the soaring precipice of the King Mountain:

Monday, September 24, 2007

Last week Wednesday, Laurianne and I attended a screening of five short films from Burundi. Burundi, as many people know, is my wife's native country. These films were produced by the Burundi Film Center, an organization founded by Canadian filmmakers (despite the Americanized spelling of "center"). The Burundi Film Center taught students the basics of film-making and production. Every student wrote a script from which five scripts were chosen. Five teams produced five ten-minute films with each movie having a budget of one hundred dollars American. Each team had one day to film and one day to edit their movie. The result was, for the most part, some very fine work. It was actually quite impressive that movies of this caliber were produced by first-time film students in such a short time. The best film, in my opinion, was the story of a young boy named Kimvuvu (basket-boy) who wonders where his strange name originated.

Some people might wonder about supporting a film centre in a country facing many economic and political challenges. While it might seem superfluous to some, I feel that film is a valuable art form that enriches and inspires. While film might not solve ethnic tensions or feed the hungry, it is a medium which has the potential to challenge cultural mores, entertain, educate and foster hope. While I personally lack the funds to make a difference for this organization, I do hope that the Burundi Film Center continues to blossom and grow in the years to come.

After the films we were entertained by some traditional Burundian drumming which is simply amazing. Here are two clips of Burundian drumming:

Clip 1
Clip 2

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Similes Ad Nauseum

After a brief hiatus, I have returned to the blog like a vulture to its carrion. My blog, of course, is not carrion, but I have merely returned to the blog like a vulture would to the rotting corpse of a dead animal. My blog is like a classic novel that all the critics rave over. That is to say that it is awesome. I have been absent from the information superhighway for a while like a man who has left his home for a few days. There is no need for explanation, but I will explain anyways like a person who tells you a tasteless joke even though you asked them to stop. The explanation is not like a tasteless joke, it's more like a boring anecdote from a co-worker that you have to hear anyway. Here is the explanation, as clear as pudding on the wall. Our internet providers was as effective as duct tape. That is to say that the internet provider was working properly. The computer, however, was like trying to use a mildly adhesive epoxy to hold your work boot together. That is to say that the computer was not functioning properly. I had downloaded an online virus program like someone who wanted to protect their computer. Unfortunately, when trying to upload some photos from our new digital camera (which is like an electronic version of awesomeness), the virus program was like an angry beachcomber whose metal detector had just broken. That is to say, it did not allow my computer to connect to the modem.

Of course, I'm a bit like a person who is waxing poetically on something which they know nothing about. That is to say that I know as much about computers as the meter man knows about home security. That is to say that I know a bit, but you would be like a fool who has hired an inept person if you were to hire me to fix your computer in the same way that you would be wrong to hire the meter man to install your home security system. Of course, he might know what he's doing, but I'm speaking in generalities like an incompetent leader who wishes to distract from their own failings. I would like to thank our friends Ben and Francois who were as instrumental in the repair of our computer as a good computer repair team is instrumental in the repair of a computer.

Well, until next time.

Who deh?