French not dancing with 'Devil'


Oscar-winning Canadian producer Michael Donovan has criticized French distributors for ignoring his latest movie, "Shake Hands With the Devil," because it fingers France for encouraging Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

Donovan, who will release "Devil" nationwide Friday following its bow this month in Toronto, said Friday that he has had offers from a host of international territories but "dead silence" from France.

"Here, a great crime has been committed on behalf of the French people by its government and soldiers, and it's understandable that it might be hard for the citizens of France to acknowledge and reflect upon that," Donovan said. "But I think the country must reflect, and it will be a great shame if they are denied the possibility of seeing this film."

"Devil" portrays Canadian former Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire leading an ill-fated United Nations mission to oversee a fragile cease-fire in Rwanda in 1994. Rather than bring peace to that African nation, Dallaire and his U.N. troops found themselves abandoned by Western countries, including France, and were forced to watch helplessly as genocide unfolded there.

Donovan noted with irony that French critics lavished praise on an earlier film he produced, Michael Moore's Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine," when it bowed at the 2002 Festival de Cannes and heaped criticism on the U.S. and its gun culture.

"That film was hugely popular in France. It was also popular in the U.S., which shows the Americans have a capacity for self-examination," the Canadian producer noted. "But here we have a film critical of France, and interestingly, the French distributors are showing no interest in that."

The Canadian producer noted that historical evidence indicates that the French government backed Hutu extremists who slaughtered 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus over 100 days in 1994.

The Canadian producer recounted one key scene in "Devil" in which French troops land in Kigali, not to rescue imperiled Tutsis but to escort Hutu politicians, who helped launch the genocide, out of the country.

Donovan said that, even at the end of the 1994 genocide, when rebel Tutsi forces appeared victorious, French troops landed in Kigali yet again as part of Operation Turquoise to shore up the Hutu extremists.

Donovan added that he has offers for his latest movie from buyers in the U.S. and key European territories and will make announcements on deals in the coming weeks.