I’m really glad we decided to turn this into a prayer/movie/prayers about movies blogs because I have a lot to say about Blood Diamond.
It seems to me that this started out as a pretty important idea for popular media consumption. Far too many people are clueless as to where that big rock on their finger may have come from. I had no idea until my best friend’s family adopted some boys from Sierra Leone, and that was in 2003, a year after the war officially ended, and twelve years after it started. Probably we should know more about our comsumption habits. So going into a movie about the diamond mines, I was fairly excited for a level of awareness that it was bound to bring (or already brought, I’m a little late with this one) what with the big names and so on.
It wasn’t an awful movie, I just think it was a pretty cowardly one. First, Leonardo was great (as pretty much always), and his accent was mezorizing and all that. Since I saw The Basketball Diaries I’ve been convinced that he’s one of the best actors out there, and Blood Diamond is a nice document of his ability to perform. And it was entertaining, but I think that was part of the problem. A film about the horror of war shouldn’t necessarily be as exciting as this one was. The shooting/chasing/bombing scenes were so intense, that you kind of just wished for more, which is pretty frightening when you think of the implications. You’re hoping that someone else’s hand gets cut off because you want to see just how crazy it is? And I hope that wasn’t just me. It just seemed to be filmed that way…because at no point in the film are we concerned that our main characters aren’t going to make it out alive…or they are at least going to live long enough to learn their lesson about consumption and exploitation. Then Zwick can kill them off. The other people running around the country are just faceless extras, to serve an entertainment purpose. Maybe war movies should be more about living in refugee camps and missing your son that was kidnapped and being forced to work in diamond mines. Maybe it shouldn’t all be spectacular explosions.
And everything works out fine. Of course it does, Sierra Leone’s at peace, right? At least that’s what the caption says at the end of the movie. They shut down the diamond industry, families are together forever in England, and the diamond smuggler and reporter learn their lessons – don’t smuggle diamonds at the cost of lives, and don’t be a hard-nosed female reporter without loving a man. No one mentions the millions of misplaced citizens, or the horrible conditions of workers in those same diamond mines, or the orphans living without any financial assistance, or the highest unemployment rates in the world. Nope. Just “Sierra Leone is now at peace.” A cease fire does not equal peace.
What I suspect happened in this case was a Hollywood version of the original. Someone with a decent knowledge of the country couldn’t have written that ending in good conscience, but no American audience is going to swallow that. It didn’t do that well with the fairy tale ending. So maybe it’s a good thing. The movie does have a lot of interesting and well placed political accusations, especially when it comes to issues of personal responsibility. They come right out and basically say “Americans are buying these diamonds and that’s what’s causing this war” (but much more elegantly put, and, like I said, in a beautiful accent). And then there is this whole issue of the supposed merits of taking pictures of miserable people for a social cause that comes out through the hard-nosed reporter. The movie has a lot going for it, and a lot of people saw it because of the beautiful actors and exciting chase scenes. I think that’s probably a really good thing…as long as they don’t do more harm than good with that last caption: “Don’t worry now. Buy diamonds! Everything’s fine in Sierra Leone!”