Monday, March 26, 2007

Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond (2006)
Directed by Edward Zwick
Screenplay by Charles Leavitt

The movie Blood Diamond,directed and produced by Edward Zwick and released into theatres in December of 2006, brought a controversy to light about the diamond business upon its release.This movie hit the screen with an explosive impact on the diamond market in America. Leonardo DiCaprio’s and Djimon Hounsou’s performances are award worthy. A captivating plotline and outstanding cast performances make this film a must see.

If you don't know what “blood diamond" is, they are stones that have been smuggled out of countries in Africa at war, which are then used as a way to pay for more arms, increasing the death toll and violence in the region. Back in the late 1990s, at the height of the conflict diamond industry, only a small percentage of these gems got into the Western market, but it was still a very profitable business. It has all been curtailed greatly since then and Sierra Leone is currently at peace but Blood Diamond is a way to remind us how precarious it still can be.
Director Ed Zwick ("The Last Samurai") hammers this home with vivid images of human cruelty and suffering. But unlike its counterpart Hotel Rwanda, which concentrated on one individual and how he dealt with the genocide, there are actually too many angles to the Diamond story, too many messages. It diffuses the film’s impact and drags it down, rather than strengthen it.

Leonardo Di Caprio, a diamond mercenary with a British accent - weird. Jennifer Connelly looking too pretty for a war-torn context. Djimon Hounsou intimidatingly genuine in his role as desperate father. His Oscar nomination was no surprise.

Leonardo Di Caprio, Hounsou, Connelly, diamonds - and lots of blood in Africa.Blood Diamond is an attempt to get people to wake up to reality of death, atrocities, bloodbaths in Africa. A reality shunned by the Western politics, financed by Western corporatocracy, and glossed over by the Western media.There's a good line by Connelly's character when she sees a million-inhabitant refugee camp and says that we'll only get a glimpse of it in CNN, "somewhere between Sports and Weather".

The movie opens with Solomon Vandy being kidnapped from his family to work in diamonds run by the Revolutionary United Front. The RUF are anti-government rebels whose modus operandi seems to be pillaging and burning villages, chopping off hands, shooting women and children, and enslaving able-bodied men (there's some black comedy in how the Revolutionary United Front commanders, overseeing their prisoners breaking their backs sifting for diamonds in the rivers and just before shooting people point-blank, can say, "Here, there are no masters and slaves!"

On account of a government attack on the mines, Vandy is imprisoned but only after he managed to bury a huge diamond he found. This secret can't be kept entirely and he's later set free by Archer who's determined to get the diamond himself. The deal is that Vandy helps Archer in return for assistance in finding his family. Along comes Bowen, a journalist who wants to expose the truth about the illegal diamond trade and whose help Archer and Vandy needs to make it to the site where the diamond was buried.

There are great shots of bazooka-inspired destruction and other intense battle scenes of the civil war. You get Archer making the all-too-familiar quote, last made by Bruce Willis, about how God has "already left Africa". You get half a dozen mini-pep talks about how nothing can be done to resolve the situation,and serious cliches like, "Why are our own people doing this to each other?"). You'll also get a half-chilling new acronym, TIA, the meaning of which I'll leave it to you to find out.

You get an unrealistic half-romance between Archer and Bowen who looks way too LA-girl-who-wants-to-make-a-diff for this movie). Quite unexpected is the violent indoctrination by the Revolutionary United Front of children kidnapped from villages (think of Kurt Russell's Soldier with a lot less technology, fashion and suave) which included front-lining the next village massacre, being forced to take drugs, gambling - all a growing boy needs, huh?
The sad thing is there'll be charity in hell before countries who can afford to give aid do so in reasonable amounts. And even if they do, Africans themselves can't seem to eliminate the (tribal?) proclivity to occasionally wipe each other out.

How can the diamond trade be made to bring real development to their source-countries? How can the violence be ended? How can big corporations be made to serve the Third World instead of the opposite? And - probably the most important question raised by the film - how do we get people to give a damn?

Edward Zwick's narrative skills keep us hooked on the story, and the first-rate production values and imaginative use of locations give the film an enthralling scope and epic sweep.The movie was shot in Mozambique. Starring Leonardo Di Caprio,Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly,Michael Sheen, Arnold Vosloo, Basil Wallace, Ntare Mwine, Caruso Kuypers, and David Harewood .

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