Film & DVD Review: Blood Diamond

  • Directed by: Edward Zwick
  • Certification: Netherlands:16 / Switzerland:14 (canton of Vaud) / Switzerland:14 (canton of Geneva) / Portugal:M/16 / Canada:13+ (Quebec) / Canada:14A (Alberta/British Columbia/Manitoba/Ontario) / Singapore:NC-16 / USA:R (certificate #43118) / Brazil:16 / Australia:MA / Germany:16 / Ireland:15A / Canada:14A / Finland:K-15 / Malaysia:18PL / Hong Kong:IIB / Philippines:R-13 (MTRCB) / UK:15
  • Running Time: 143 minutesThis is a moving and powerful film. It is set in the war-torn Sierra Leone of the 1990s. Here diamonds were a way of financing the purchase of arms by the rebels in a vicious civil war. From the start this brutality is not concealed or avoided. We see a tranquil seaside village suddenly invaded by RUF rebels (see note after review). They hack off the hands of many in order to frighten people from voting. Others are simply killed or press-ganged to work for them in the diamond mines or as child soldiers. Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) is separated from his family and taken to work in the diamond fields. His son Dia (Kagiso Kuypers) is taken as a child soldier.

    The engine of the action is Solomon’s attempts to free and reunite his family. He finds and hides a pink diamond of great value and hides it and this provides both a danger and an opportunity. The diamond could help him to rescue his wife and daughter from a life in refugee camps and his son from brutalisation and perhaps death. Or he could be killed in pursuit of it or by others wanting it for themselves.

    Enter Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a jaded, cynical Rhodesian and former South African mercenary. He wants the life that the diamond could give him. He helps Solomon reluctantly in return for being led closer to the diamond. Director Edward Zwick says: “To me this movie is about what is valuable. To one person it might be a stone; to someone else a story in a magazine; to another, it is a child. The juxtaposition of one man obsessed with finding a valuable diamond with another man risking his life to find his son is the beating heart of this film.”

    The character of Archer is not one-dimensional – as the film progresses we see that his attitude to Africa and Africans is complex. We also learn a little about his childhood and upbringing and perhaps understand more of why he is as he is.

    Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly) accompanies and helps the two-men on parts of their journey. She is in a privileged position as an American journalist. She wants to use Archer to expose the truth behind conflict diamonds.

    The film works as a straight action story but it is more than that. There are some heavy political issues being raised. The World Diamond Council (backed by De Beers) is so worried that they are spending £7.5m to counter the inevitable negative public impression the film creates. De Beers also sponsored the head of Def Jam Records (and jewelry manufacturer), Russell Simmons, to tour well run sites in Africa. The industry is also offering to pay money to charity for every Star who will wear diamonds at the Oscar ceremony.

    This reaction is curious. The film ends on a positive note (perhaps unrealistically) with the creation of the Kimberley Process. This actually exists and is meant to ensure that conflict diamonds are no longer offered for sale in affluent countries. It was signed by 40 diamond producing nations in 2003. Yet there is strong evidence to suggest that it is being actively circumvented. At the International Press Conference held in London the stars and makers of Blood Diamond took the view that consumers had a responsibility to check that purchases were not conflict diamonds. Leonardo DiCaprio said:- “You can ask for some authentication that it isn’t a conflict diamond. Buyers should just use their judgement and ask the right questions.”Of course they are right but even if every consumer asks questions there is no guarantee that they will not be misled. Still we reproduce below some questions you might like to ask.

    Blood Diamond also raises questions about the exploitation of natural resources and the relationship between affluent and developing countries. The Director, Edward Zwick, pointed out that wherever natural resources have been discovered (oil, rubber, ivory etc.) local people have generally far from benefited. There is one scene in the film when an old man surrounded by dead bodies and burning homes says ‘Thank God we don’t have oil’.

    Blood Diamond is a film that will entertain you, sometimes shock you and certainly get you thinking and talking about important issues. It’s refreshing that a major studio (Warner Bros) backed this film and that Edward Zwick, Paula Weinstein and the others delivered. Go see it and tell your friends!

    Questions to ask a Diamond seller

  • How can I be sure that none of your jewelry contains conflict diamonds?
  • Do you know where the diamonds you sell come from?
  • Can I see a copy of your company’s policy on conflict diamonds?
  • Can you show me a written guarantee from your diamond suppliers stating that your diamonds are conflict free? What is the RUF?

    RUF stands for Revolutionary United Front, a rebel group in Sierra Leone that was supported for a while by Charles Taylor and Liberia. Their political platform was unclear with little attempt at articulating policy. They relied mainly on discontent with the government. In 1995, RUF published a pamphlet entitled “Footpaths to Democracy: Toward a New Sierra Leone, which contained references to social justice and pan-Africanism.

    The RUF as a military force is gone today, having been defeated after Britain and Guinea sent troops to deal with them in 2001, ending the Sierra Leone Civil War. A very small political party still exists. At the last elections, May 14 2002, the party won 2.2 % of popular votes and no seats. Its candidate at the presidential elections, Alimamy Pallo Bangura, received 1.7% of the vote. Thankfully, they appear to be a spent force.

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    1 Comment »

    1. CMrok93 said

      This is one powerful film. The shooting style is intense, mixing action with heart-wrenching drama with Leonardo DiCaprio’s great lead performance. Good review, check out mine when you can please!


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