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Blood Diamonds Are Forever

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Posted on Dec 7, 2006
Blood Diamond
Warner Brothers

Djimon Hounsou and Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from “Blood Diamond,” which opens in theaters Dec. 8.

By Sheerly Avni

Edward Zwick’s socially conscious action thriller “Blood Diamond” clocks in at 2 hours, 19 minutes, and it’s at least half an hour too long.  Set against the backdrop of the 1991-2002 civil war in Sierra Leone, the movie crams in more gore than “Saw” and more sermonizing than a morning at “The 700 Club,” all sweetened with a heavy dose of “thirtysomething”-esque tears and epiphany. The movie doesn’t know if it wants to be a morality play, political lecture, adrenaline fix, love story, interracial buddy picture or corporate takedown, so it tries for all of the above. “Blood Diamond” is a schizophrenic mess.

It’s also, thanks in no small part to the performances of its two male leads, one of the most powerful movies you will see this year.

 

“Blood Diamond” follows a plotline that echoes at least a dozen films, including “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “Casablanca” and the Indiana Jones trilogy.  Leonardo DiCaprio plays Danny Archer, a mercenary-turned-diamond-smuggler from Zimbabwe (which he insists on calling Rhodesia), who has botched his most recent delivery. Archer needs his big score—now—and when he gets wind of the existence of a rare pink diamond buried in secret near a rebel mining operation, he decides that the diamond will be his ticket out.  The only other person who knows its whereabouts is Solomon Vandy (played by Djimon Hounsou—“Gladiator,” “Amistad”), a fisherman whose son has been kidnapped by the rebels. Vandy needs Archer to help find his son, Archer needs Vandy to take him to the diamond. Voila!  A team-up is born.

But it’s not really a team-up. Through most of the film, Vandy is Archer’s virtual prisoner, and he has no time for his captor’s phony attempts at camaraderie.  “So you’re a fisherman,” says DiCaprio, trying to make small talk. “What do you catch?”

“Fish,” answers Vandy curtly. And the conversation is over. 

Just as the buddy movie isn’t really a buddy movie, the thriller isn’t really a thriller, because the narrow escapes that act as bonding points in the men-on-the-run sub-genre are not exciting so much as grueling. The men do dodge bullets together, but they are escaping slaughter, not fighting battles. It’s action movie as horror show, complete with bayonets, bullet-riddled children, chopped limbs and, most chillingly, a harrowing subplot in which we watch Vandy’s son, Dia (marvelous newcomer Caruso Kuypers), being slowly indoctrinated into the life of a child soldier.

These are the stakes, not just a boy’s body but his soul. Hounsou, a former model from the tiny West African country of Benin, whose almost off-putting beauty has only recently settled into a more manageable handsomeness, commits wholly to the role. It is his performance as a man in search of his son, all the while resisting the smuggler’s attempts to manipulate and control him, that almost single-handedly keep “Blood Diamond” from sailing off into pure cliche.

I say almost single-handedly because DiCaprio does well by Danny Archer. He too has finally outgrown the adolescent prettiness that marred his first attempts at serious roles (it’s a pity “Gangs of New York” isn’t being made now, because DiCaprio finally has the gravitas to carry it off), and here he is alternately calculating and cocky, with a killer lurking deep inside his narrowed eyes and a better person lurking deeper still.  When Archer recognizes himself in Vandy’s son, DiCaprio achieves the impossible: He gets in touch with his wounded inner child without making us hurl.

Jennifer Connelly has a much harder time.  As Maddy Bowen, a driven American journalist who alienates her sources by lecturing them, Connelly alternately flirts with Archer and scolds him, interrupting occasionally to rant about the Horror That Is Africa, but mostly she just serves as a softening agent, a Downy to DiCaprio’s starch.  The more resonant quest is the one that binds the two men, and poor Connelly is left to provide redundant commentary for Eduardo’s Serra’s magnificent camera work. Serra pans out over a vast carpet of refugees at a camp:  “This is what a million homeless people look like,” Maddy intones solemnly, as if we couldn’t see it ourselves onscreen.  It’s a thankless role, one that only becomes more so as her interactions with DiCaprio dwindle down into drawn-out silences, lingering looks—Connelly should begin writing “no concerned gazes” riders into her contracts—and one particularly desultory cellphone tete-a-tete in which both Bowen and Archer have other things to worry about besides their relationship, like maybe the bullets whizzing through the air around them.

Still, DiCaprio, Hounsou and Connelly commit so wholly to the struggles of their characters that we forgive them the excesses of the film in which they are trapped. Leave it to Maddy, in her American earnestness, to remind us why this movie matters: “People back home wouldn’t buy a diamond,” she says, “if they knew it cost someone a hand.”



Sidebar: The PR Battle Over Blood Diamonds

When asking yourself about the potential power of a message movie, it’s worth noting who is trying to keep that message from getting out.  You might just go see “Blood Diamond” because the diamond industry so clearly doesn’t want you to—- it has already spent millions of dollars to offset any negative publicity during the lucrative holiday shopping season, hiring a top Hollywood PR firm that specializes in scandals, and building a website to assure us that it’s cleaned up its act.

The industry has even enlisted the help of rap mogul Russell Simmons to shill on its behalf and, as reported in the New York Times, had Nelson Mandela send a letter of concern to the president of Warner Brothers saying it would be “deeply regrettable” if “Blood Diamond” led to the “destabilization of African diamond producing countries.” As the spin doctors would have it, rough diamonds are the key to the emerging African economies and the Kimberley Process, a “voluntary” agreement by the industry to police itself, has eliminated all but 1 percent of so-called conflict diamonds from the African export market.

The producers of “Blood Diamond” have taken care to assure us that they are not damning the industry itself, rather raising awareness of the need to make sure one does not buy conflict diamonds. But the film accurately casts De Beers, the Johannesburg- based company that is by far the most powerful entity in the diamond industry (called Van De Kamp in the movie) as its villain.  De Beers’ very existence is woven into the history of Apartheid South Africa and the colonization of the continent, and the Kimberly Process is still full of loopholes. 

There are several options besides taking a “conflict-free” certification at face value, including Canadian-mined or synthetic stones.  In history and in practice, the idea of an “ethical diamond” from Africa is still dubious at best, an oxymoron at worst.


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By Barbara Robbins, July 26, 2011 at 10:02 pm Link to this comment

I saw this movie a while back ago and remember that is was great! Djimon Hounsou and Leonardo DiCaprio did an amazing work with the acting. Not too surprising as DiCaprio has been in the movie industry for such a long time now. If you haven’t seen Blood Diamond yet, you really should go and watch it.

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By Gemma Tubbrit, July 11, 2011 at 1:20 am Link to this comment

Essentially a romantic adventure story with politics in the background-an old-fashioned movie, I suppose, but exciting and stunningly well made. The story takes place in 1999 Sierra Leone, when the country is embroiled in a civil war. Diamonds, one of the country’s largest exportable commodities, are being smuggled out and purchased on the open market despite a supposed international ban on the purchase of diamonds, the so-called “Blood Diamonds”. This historical background is accurate, although the three primary characters embroiled in events are fictional. Blood Diamond has its share of stark, unforgettable moments but whose substance never fully gels. Altogether, I’d say, a visually sumptuous, bullet-train-paced thriller with a really provocative theme.

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By aaaaaaa, November 12, 2010 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

it’s all to easy to wish the same things that trias and johnson preach on them in face of their sociopathic outlooks on human life

you two are such wretched cunts

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By G.singh, August 6, 2010 at 9:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I know a few people on here have said that they own blood diamonds, i really would apprciate it if sombody would tell me where i could find them as i have looked all over the internet to no avail. Thank you

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By April, April 6, 2010 at 1:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m sorry for those who disagree, but I must say I agree with you Kent.  I came to this
site only to hope to find information on where to find what some of you call “conflict /
blood” diamonds. Due to my own personal experience I know that one can be harmed,
and in my case killed over a diamond and this was in the United States, nor in a high
crime area. After leaving having a few drinks with friends I was held at gunpoint for my
what some of you said spoiled persons diamond. This guy probably would have killed
me if a group of people wouldn’t have walked around the corner at the perfect time
only to see him running away.  If this man would have killed me and gotten away with
it, then sold it to any of you who disagree with Kent, myself, or anyothers that are not
like all you tree hugging liberals, well I guess u would be a horrible person bc then you
would have bought a blood diamond. Whether you want to believe it or not a lot of
diamonds sold in the US are conflict/blood diamonds. Anyone would be stupid to
believe that all jewelers diamonds are bought in a ethical manner. My first diamond was
bought in an ethical manner and was way over priced. So for Mr. Dan1"dummy”, this
spoiled lady is wanting a larger diamond and would like to get it for a great price no
matter where or who it comes from. Don’t worry I will be that spoiled lady that wears
my old 4ct diamond as a pendant.

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By Eric, December 14, 2009 at 4:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

conflict diamond ? What about conflict oil > Are all you so blind that 1 movie gets you work up over a few diamonds . Lets talk about all the people who die over oil. Think about it the next time you fill up your car with gas. Open your minds and think a little people die every day so we can have the things we want .Are you sure that conflict Diamonds is a B/S story to keep someone else in control of the diamond market. Wake up people its not over the killing of people its over taking control of the market and the profits….same with the war in the mid-east its about oil and profits

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By Eve, December 7, 2009 at 5:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Blood diamonds are a sad and very real story and the diamonds themselves may very well last forever. To me the countries that have blood diamonds coming from them need some real help from the U.N. if they are ever going to change as it must come from the Government or the people if it is to come!

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By university student, November 6, 2009 at 11:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Im doing a paper on blood diamonds. although there are all sides to this argument it all comes down to one thing. People get massacred so our ladies can have a glimmering little rock on their hand. Children get their brains blown out for a luxury of ours. If it was your children, you would not support blood diamonds. If your children were dead because of a wedding going on thousands of miles away, I dont think you would see it as population control Trias. And people with war experience and what not, if you have the view that death happens all the time… Why bother serving our country? What do you care if someone comes into the US and doing to us what happens to them? Exactly. If thats truly how you view everyone life i feel that our forces are much better off without someone like you.

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By Trias, September 1, 2009 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What is the big deal about “blood” diamonds? The person that was killed in the
process of having the diamond that I gave my wife when I proposed last year was
one. I sought out a BD because I know that someone on the other side of the
world quite possibly was killed so that it could be brought to me. The world is
over populated as it is and one less person makes me feel that I am doing my
small part to preserve this planet. Another diseased human is the last thing any of
us should be wanting to protect. Why not concern ourselves with our own country
and let the people who want to die continue killing each other It is what they are
best at. Well… that and mining huge diamonds to be bought at a bargain.

BTW: All of you bible thumpers (I didn’t capitalize it, ha ha) need to chill out and
realize that everyone is going to die someday. Why not let them? It doesn’t bother
me one bit, and it shouldn’t bother you either.

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By olivia, July 1, 2009 at 10:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I just don’t understand why people with no experience are commenting. If you don’t have facts about what is going on in Africa OR anywhere else, then why bother? I don’t know what is going on in this world today, so I can only pray to God that things can be better.

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By Johnson, March 1, 2009 at 3:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am currently on my second deployment to Iraq and can speak from experience when I say who cares about a little violence. I have bought a conflict diamond from a market in Quatar and was quite pleased with it when I had it evaluated in the states. People die all the time and many die by the hands of people working either directly or indirectly for the United states. Whether through the armed forces defending you or through the multitude of violent acts carried out by the lowest bidder in order to get you the commodities you all so crave for, regardless of there source. The fact of the matter is the world is a cruel place and all of you left wing liberal wimps who have never left your mothers skirt tails should shut up and do something other than whine and comment on a blogs saying you support the most recent Hollywood travesty. I for one don’t care if someone dies to make life better for me or put a bigger rock on my girls finger for unlike most of you I have killed and I realize that a human life isn’t a sacred commodity. In case you wondered human life is a renewable resource.

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By Sherri, December 28, 2007 at 1:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have read all of the statements above.  I agree and disagree to all of them.  Except wishing someone will burn in hell,don’t agree with that.  The truth is none of us can state anything about anything, until we experience it.  Africa, vietnam, drive by shootings, rape, random killings.  We can just go on day by day and try to make the best of what we can. We could make a difference as a whole but I’m afraid that will never happen.  Like Jennifer Connelly states in the movie, “you can be a sinic”  or maybe she should have said “you can be a sinic or just do what you are able to do and that will make you feel good about yourself”  There is a saying that I hate but it is true. At the end of the day what are you feeling.  The next day change what made you feel bad about.  When you die it is just you who has to face what you have done or not done.

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By Stout, August 20, 2007 at 5:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One more thing Jessica, nice touch praying that someone goes to hell.  Bet you learned that in Bible Camp, huh?

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By Stout, August 20, 2007 at 5:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jessica, women shouldn’t be treated as 3rd class citizens, I agree.  But a man shouldn’t have to buy a woman a diamond ring in order for her to commit to him. 

Engagement rings are the most absurd aspect of so-called “romance.”  Any woman who “needs” anything more than a wedding band to say “I do,” is a whore.  She’s basically saying, “I’m a human being, a lovin and respectable woman, but you can buy me.”  And any guy who can’t argue his way out of buying a ring instead of emphasizing marriage or just true love itself over weddings is a pussy. 

Women are too concerned with their WEDDING to realize what kind of MARRIAGE they’re going to have.  Guys care about whether a woman’s gonna be good for the long haul.  Most women only care about money and a day.  That’s why I’ll probably do the Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn thing.  They’ve been together for a LONG time, live together, and have kids.  How’d they do that without a wedding, you ask?  They love each other.  And apparently there are some women who grow up and get over their Cinderella and Snow White fantasies.  Prince Charming is gay, get over it or marry your beard.

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By kent, June 18, 2007 at 1:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

its very basic west african stones are very nice. and thats right i could care less how they are mined or by whom ,and for that purpose who benefits from their sales. so yall watched a movie and the liberals of my once great nation jumps on another “global” cause. face it the world sucks…im proud to announce that my iraqi PMC check paid for a great engagement stone….and a lower cost than you can imagine…there has always been an exploited africa and there always will be, no matter i wonder how much cash made from the movie went into helping the little people it portrays…i know my $3500 helped a nice man from monrovia, cheers and dude lay off offending the females that was some rightous b/s and completely inacurate…

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By jessica, May 14, 2007 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is to andy how could you say that! the only thiong that i can do for you is pray…pray that you you go to hell you basterd. we should treat women as 3rd class. obviously you have never had a women and i can see why…YOU ARE AN ASS WHOLE!!!!same goes for bob wilson the 2 of you are lower then shit. the both of you will BURN IN HELL for how inconsiderate of others you are. i pray for both of you to get the evil that is in both of you out.
by the way thanks for the article.

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By MDG, April 7, 2007 at 8:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To 58465 on 3/13

ARe you illiterate?  “Them diamonds”?  How about “those diamonds”.

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By Andy, March 27, 2007 at 3:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I agree with Mr. Wilson.  The way I see it, the killing is going to happen if we buy them or not.  If they don’t kill each other over the diamonds, then it will be over something else.  If you really want to stop the killing, we should start treating all women like they’re 3rd class citizens and are not worthy of receiving any gifts at all.  That way, they’ll be ever so grateful when they are given a spider ring from a Cracker Jack Box.  The only reason that diamonds are so valubale is because women want them, men want women, and that’s the price we have to pay to make these self-absorbed whores happy.  It’s not the diamonds we value.  It’s the reprieve from ball-busting we receive when we give one to a woman…. however short that reprieve may be.

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By dan1dunphy@netzero.com, March 21, 2007 at 7:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’VE NEVER REALLY APPRECIATED DIAMONDS, OR THE
PEOPLE WHO WEAR THEM-ESPECIALLY THE LARGE ONES. 
THEY MAKE WOMEN LOOK SPIOLED, AND MEN -WITH THE PINKY RING OR THE LARGE EARRINGS LOOK “BLANK-YES-
“N” RICH” RICH-

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By Jane Suger, March 13, 2007 at 8:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

BOB WILSON! That could possibly be the most inconsiderate thing i have ever heard. The fact that you don’t even care after knowing how these conflict diamonds come about is absurd. It’s disgusting to see your obvious stupidity in not caring about anything happening in the world. How would you feel knowing your wearing a diamond that has probably resulted in the life of someone being taken. I hope you think twice before buying a conflict diamond, and if you still do, pray to god you don’t go to hell. =)

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By Blood Diamonds, March 13, 2007 at 7:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bob Wilson! you pathetic low life scum! I hope you die i hope you die while trying to get them diamonds in a car crash or getting jacked and stabbed serveral times. If you watched the movie and understand what happens in order to get them diamonds then you wouldnt have be SUCH A PRICK! In your next life i hope you are born in a blood diamond conflict in africa and see what happens to you. You racist cheap selfish low life pathetic inconsiderate retard!

Hope who ever them diamonds go on gets cursed!

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By Bob Wilson, December 31, 2006 at 12:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m tired of spending thousands on overpriced stones.  I am very well aware of conflict stones and the problems stemming from their deployment in global commerce.  However, I simply do not care.  I’ve searched the internet, and does anyone here know where I can buy conflict “blood” diamonds??  I’d imaging they’d be cheaper than the overpriced ones controlled by DeBeers, and other companies.  If anyone has a link, etc, let me know.  I’d rather fund rebels than put any money in DeBeers coffers.

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By D Deans, December 13, 2006 at 5:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The “conflict” over diamonds is a bunch of media hype—the press can’t resist the contrast between violence in Africa and the love that diamonds represent.
The reality is that any commodity produced in developing nations for first-world consumers will have inequalities in treatment.  Shell Oil has people killed so that you can drive 2 miles to pick up a six-pack; thousands die overseas so you can have cheap fertilizer to keep your food cheap.  And don’t get me started about Iraq.
Diamonds are a miracle of nature; the jewelry industry’s Kimberley process HAS NO MATCH in any other industry for guaranteeing that the diamond you purchase does not sponsor violence.
Anyway, the largest producing diamond mine in the world is in Australia (Argyle) and NOT in Africa; you can buy Canadian diamonds if you wish (they are beautiful); or you can buy synthetic—and opposed to the uneducated writer below, cubiz zirconia is NOT a “synthetic diamond.”  CZ is a “diamond simulant.”  Synthetic diamonds ARE diamonds, just created in a lab and not by monther nature.  Gemesis in Florida and Apollo in New England are producing gem quality “lab created” diamonds for jewelry consumers.  But for me, I’ll go with the Kimberley process.

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By Ed Grey, December 11, 2006 at 1:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The demand for diamonds is as synthetic as a cubic zirconium - created by advertising many years ago. Diamonds are not a traditional gem for engagement rings. Famous women celebrities were first paid to be seen wearing diamonds in the early years of the 20th century.

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By Joan Kuyek, December 8, 2006 at 2:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

thanks for the article, for more nuances and information please go to our website and read
There are no clean diamonds: what you need to know about Canadian diamonds.

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