August 31, 1998

Article at Denise Withers

Policy Change Documentary: Roméo Dallaire (project overview)

I sat as the only woman at a long table dominated by General Roméo Dallaire.

Who are you?” he snapped.
I’m the director.
He looked me in the eye. “If you don’t make the audience cry, you’ve failed.
Challenge accepted.

I’d been hired by the Department of National Defence (DND) to write and direct a documentary on the horrors witnessed by Canadian Peacekeepers in Rwanda. Gruesome stuff. But this project wasn’t to be political commentary about how the world failed the entire country by refusing to act. Dallaire’s strategic objective was clear – he wanted to make the Canadian Armed Forces recognize and treat PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Over the next six months, he gave me (nearly) unlimited access to his personnel to record their very personal and moving stories of what happened. And he honoured me with an exclusive interview, in which he admitted for the first time to being suicidal while in Rwanda.

The film was a sobering success. Everyone cried (including me). It became mandatory viewing for all CAF personnel and aired on the CBC. And within a year, his mission was accomplished – PTSD became a national priority for DND.

View the complete documentary here.