Thursday, June 2, 2011

Blood Diamond

Sierra Leone, 1999
Civil war rages for control of the diamond fields.
Thousands have died and millions have become refugees.
None of whom has ever seen a diamond.

Blood Diamond (2006): think shootings, explosions, violence, car chases and international diamond smuggling.
Set in Sierra Leone, the story is based on the depiction of illegal diamond trade and its effect, and follows the interactions between a local fisherman (Djimon Hounsou), a diamond smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a journalist (Jennifer Connelly, Requiem for a Dream). In the background, the savage conflict in Sierra Leone, with the forced recruitment of child soldiers, killing and maiming of tens of thousands by lawless gangs of rebels and "freedom fighters".

Troop Leader: Here we say that the freedom is in your hands, so if you go against us, so go your hands.

Soldier: [Before chopping off the hand of a man] Short sleeve or long sleeve?

Captain Poison: Young man, young man, listen to me. The gov'mint wants you to vote. They say "the future is in your hands." We now the future. So we take your hands! No more hands, no more voting!

Captain Poison: You think I'm a demon, but that's only because I have lived in Hell.
The storyline is pretty exciting and has the Hollywood feel : it’s more about action than about a documentary-type film about conflict diamonds. It still is thought provoking, as the film makes the point that we all contribute to the violence and slave labor when we buy diamond from politically unstable zones, and criticizes the diamond industry violently. This could easily have been a documentary, but add Leonardo to any cast and you have a blockbuster : a clever way to pormote a cause.

DiCaprio is great as a mercenary who works for smugglers, he shows a lack of ethics and eventually evolves as a human being, seeing the consequences of his trade. Hounsou acting is really impressive and the way he plays an African fisherman and father is so deep and focused. His character of Solomon is acted perfectly, with a large range of emotions portrayed extremely realistically and physically rather than verbally : he held back his thoughts, feelings and opinions, his anger.

Prostitute: I'm safe, huh. No HIV.
Danny: Ja, ja. I've heard that one before.

Danny: In America, it's bling bling. But out here it's bling bang

Danny: Sometimes I wonder... will God ever forgive us for what we've done to each other? Then I look around and I realize... God left this place a long time ago.

Danny: T.I.A. This is Africa.

Danny: So you're a fisherman, ha? What do you catch mostly?
Solomon: Fish.

There is a parallel between the child soldier Dia, and Danny Archer. Danny's parents had been murdered in the struggle in Zimbabwe, and Danny joined the army in South Africa and served in Angola, where he became a trained killer under the guidance of Colonel Coetze. Dia comes under the guidance of Colonel Poison. Neither Coetze nor Poison care about their young proteges, except for turning them into emotionless killing machines.

Some scenes are difficult to watch, but all in all this is a great moment, both entertaining and thought provoking, highly recommended.

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