Cinema Junkie by Beth Accomando
Saturday, December 9, 2006
Edward Zwick's Blood Diamond.
Edward Zwick, a white American filmmaker, has told the story of black soldiers led by a white officer during the Civil War in Glory, and later focused on a white American leading Japanese warriors in The Last Samurai . Now Zwick looks at recent history in Africa's Sierra Leone with his film Blood Diamond in which he offers up the black and white acting team of Djimon Hounsou and Leonardo DiCaprio in a kind of revamping of the Sidney Poitier-Tony Curtis pairing in The Defiant Ones. But while The Defiant Ones' used a pair of black and white prisoners on the run and bound by handcuffs as a means of exploring racial tensions of the late fifties, Blood Diamond surveys hot button international political issues by serving up a white and a black man bound together by the pursuit of a large diamond that could be each mans ticket to freedom.
Set in Sierra Leone, the film shows the atrocities committed by both those in power and those rebelling, and the poor people caught in between. Solomon Vandy (Hounsou) is one of those Africans caught in the crossfire. Vandy is forced to mine for diamonds by the guerrillas who need the gems to finance their war. By chance, Vandy finds a large diamond that he manages to hide from his captors during a military attack. Both Vandy and the guerrillas land in jail where Danny Archer (DiCaprio), a mercenary dealing in illicit diamonds, also happens to be cooling his heels. While in jail, Archer learns about Vandy's hidden treasure. Archer then manages to get both he and Vandy out in the hopes of getting his hands on the stone. Vandy sees the diamond as the only means he may have of finding his missing family and buying their freedom. Archer, on the other hand, has more selfish ambitions and sees the diamond as his meal ticket out of Africa. Archer proposes that the two men join forces in order to head back into the dangerous territory where the stone is hidden. Along the way they hook up with Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connolly), an American journalist who wants to write an investigative piece about blood diamonds in the hopes that she can make a difference in the world. Now the three head off to the jungle with mercenaries, guerrillas and the government in hot pursuit.
Blood Diamond presents itself as an action thriller but the genre trappings cant hide the fact that Zwick wants to teach audiences another history lesson and lecture them on political correctness. Jennifer Connellys reporter exists only to spout statistics and educate us on the subject. She's like one of those characters you bump into in a video game that spews information so you can advance to the next level. When Archer first meets Bowen, their conversation is a rapid summary of recent African history with snide comments about American guilt and the fact that the politically correct way to refer to Rhodesia now is to call it Zimbabwe. Similarly, Vandy is meant to be symbolic of the African people. But none of these people feel like fully fleshed out characters.
Edward Zwick directs Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou.
Zwick is not content to just tell a good action story or to focus tightly on one aspect of a complex problemhe wants to explore everything. He shows how the guerrillas coerce children into fighting, how diamonds fund the violence, how the west ignores the problems in Africa, the formation of massive refugee camps, and so on. Yet even though the film covers a lot of ground, it never gets to the complexity of the problems. Its broad in scope but not deep.
A film that did manage to blend politics and good storytelling together was last year's The Constant Gardener, a thriller that enlightened us about Africa while also delivering a compelling and tense narrative. That film found a clever way to weave the characters journey neatly and tightly into the themes of social injustice in Africa so that the audience got an education without being hit over the head with a message. The Constant Gardener riveted viewers with the characters and their emotional journey first and then worked on enlightening us with its themes.
Zwick, however, is not as graceful in weaving his tale. Plus, he hurts the film by not giving equal weight to the two male characters. Zwick appears to make the odd assertion that the white characters have more emotional investment in and ownership of Africa than the blacks. Archer is told by another white mercenary that the dirt in Africa is red because it is soaked with their blood, and that they can never leave the country because Africa runs through their veins. Archer then gets to bleed into the African soil and essentially proclaim it as his country. But it's also Vandy's country. Yet the film makes less of an effort to point out the amount of black African blood split on the same soil. Another scene that plays falsely is when Vandy wonders aloud if his country might not have been better off when it were ruled by whites. Maybe, he suggest, the blacks just have something bad within them. Such a comment seems ill placed. After all it was white colonials who created some of the divisions that still haunt the continent today. And while Zwick promotes political correctness, he never really allows Vandy's character the same chance as Archer's to speak out. When Vandy does have a moment when is supposed to speak about the pain and suffering of his country, thats the moment when Zwick brings up the music and pulls away so that the voice he claims is the most important one for us to hear, the one we are urged not to ignore, is in essence silenced.
This year, DiCaprio makes an earnest bid to change from pretty boy to tough guy with his dual roles as the hard edged undercover cop in The Departed and the mercenary with shifting morals here in Blood Diamond . He's a talented actor and the harder edge is a nice change of pace. Hounsou's Vandy is made subordinate to DiCaprio's Archer and that's too bad. Hounsou is a forceful actor and he should have been given more to work with. Connolly serves merely as a pretty plot device.
A recent film that did convey a better sense of the African experience is Catch a Fire . But that film came and went in a week. It was a more provocative film in that it explored how the injustices suffered by one black man politicized him enough to make him take action and join a resistance movement that used violence. He's labeled a terrorist by the white government. That film at least tried to convey an African point of view even though it was also made by a white filmmaker. Films from Africa, made by African filmmakers are few and of those few only a rare one ever makes it to American theater screens. All the films weve seen recently of Africa Blood Diamond, Catch a Fire, The Constant Gardener, Biko, The Last King of Scotland, Tears of the Sun are all very western in terms of their narrative structure. Films from Africa by such directors as Sembene Ousmane or Djibril Diop Mambety have a very different storytelling quality to them that stems from an oral storytelling tradition. It would be nice to see more films from a genuinely African perspective make it to American theaters.
Blood Diamond (rated R for strong violence and language) ends with the request that people demand that the trade in blood diamonds stop. But this call to action is simplistic and naive. Its not like The Inconvenient Truth asking us to buy smaller cars, drive less and use public transportationall things we can easily and actually accomplish. Diamonds dont come with their origins engraved on the back. So for the film to lay out its case and simply say its in your power to stop the trade in blood diamonds is a smug way for Zwick to feel like hes accomplished something when he hasn't. Hes really just nicked the surface of a much bigger and more complex issue. In the end, Zwick's film just feels like another attempt at alleviating white guilt.
Companion viewing: Catch a Fire, The Defiant Ones, The Constant Gardener, Amandla, Moolade, Touki Bouki
December 10, 2006 at 06:01 PM
Actually Beth, there are ways of ensuring that diamonds are conflict-free through the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), enforced through the Clean Diamond Trade Act. Consumers just need to start demanding certified diamonds. -----
December 11, 2006 at 08:27 AM
Maybe Zwick made certain sacrifices to keep a larger audience for this film... Yes, Leo gets a better character, and the film only "nicks the surface" when it comes to the many problems in Africa--specifically the blood diamonds, but if he ignored this kind of hollywood approach, which you and I might appreciate, how many people would have seen the film at all?
December 11, 2006 at 08:34 AM
I like the review. That's why I blogged a lengthy commentary at http://cheap-priceless-editions.blogspot.com . There is more to say about The Constant Gardener. Big Pharma companies were connected by LeCarr with that story through a Canada-based attempt to censure negative results for clinical trials from being published by the physician-researcher. In the DVD version I viewed, these scenes were credited in the trailers but cut from the movie. Thanks for pointing to African filmmakers in the review. I will attempt to rent some version of their oeuvre or settle with what can be found on the Internet.
December 15, 2006 at 07:45 PM
NPR pulling out the Political Correctness card? Like Rosie O, when it suits them. Puhhleeez. What Hollywood flick ain't a to b to c? Zwick happens to be one of the more conscientious studio directors. To compare this to Constant Gardner is an easy one. But that movie should have stayed in written form. Weis is a great actress, but Oscar for that film was undeserved. Much like they waited to give Oscar to Crowe for Gladiator, when he really deserved it for The Insider. Same for Denzel in Training Day, directed by Fuqoa who's earlier films had enlightening titles like the Replacement Killers, when they passed him for Hurricane. Hollywood usually does things ass backwards. But I digress. "But its also Vandys country. Yet the film makes less of an effort to point out the amount of black African blood split on the same soil." --- amm... I think the type of audience that'll choose to watch a film of this nature, the fact that Africans are the most brutalized race in Earth's history, would be a bit of a given, no? So the 30% Leo-loving girly gagas that may go to see the film may be disappointed or don't get it. At least they'd have learned a historical and politically poignant issue. But considering millions of J Lo's fans didn't exactly stand in line to watch Gigly, I think it's safe bet that there are limits to fandom when it hits their wallets. So I think it's a safe bet to say, the intended audience that will "get it," will choose to see this film. If Zwick went with your logic of making an effort to "point out the amount of black blood spilled as well," which is historically obvious to anyone, as well as within the context of the film, then the film would end up being really preachy. Zwick infers such points in enough pertinence, like say in the very typed intro, and throughout the movie, when the only targets at the end of the muzzle of AK47s triggered by doped up 7yr old "militiamen" and Col.'s Afrikaner apartheid-era has-beens mercenaries, are black, it's easy for an informed audience to agree with the director's decisions to not to overly pander and give every single history lesson within the characters' dialog; only that which is of immediate historical relevance to conflict diamonds are necessary. Besides, Beth, I believe your whole black and white angle is convoluted. I think anyone watching the movie would get that the Afrikaner is supposed to be a self-centered prick navigating through the world in his accord met briefly by one glimmer of redemption. Even with that, the actual steps taken toward his personal redemption did not come until the very last moment when his own life was threatened by the Col., which would have been within the confines of the character. He's supposed to be a mercenary, for crying out loud, how else would he change his mind, unless his personal life is mortally threatened, or someone else who has something he wants, like say Jennifer Connelly, challenged his views? Dare I ask, duh?? Besides if you've ever been victimized, or your own state of being questioned brutally by foreigners long enough, as ridiculous as it may seem to those never caught in such situ, it is only natural for any human being to wonder, at least once, "is there something wrong with me." So the following you've stated, "Another scene that plays falsely is when Vandy wonders aloud if his country might not have been better off when it were ruled by whites. Maybe, he suggest, the blacks just have something bad within them." is sadly ridiculous. And you're being silly when you think the director is inferring that. Solomon only says that after the desperation he went through; the man is bleeding to get his boy back, and he's just witnessed he's fellow man killing another, over and over, and is just harkening back to a point in his own history, searching for any godly reason for all this madness, seeking answers anywhere, only then does he ask such personally deflating introspective question. True, perhaps a movie intended for mass audience, yet with the topic of this nature, may not go over well in less introspective circles, and may falsely pander to rednecks, but I think considering the type of movies he's directed over the years, I think it's safe to say that Zwick has a bit more faith in his audience's intelligence. You really get out, what you take in with you. Besides, to say that Constant Gardner weaved multiple elements well, is being critically dishonest. Gardner told the movie in the typical arthouse director mode, which is to say, la di dah. The movie was poorly edited, laid out, and worse, poorly acted. With the political intrigue more hyped than directed eloquently. Plus, the movie was BORING. Message? Good, and necessary. The actual film? Overrated. Djimon Honsou is the real star of Blood Diamond, not Caprio. Within the context of the movie, and perhaps historically as well, the whole" blood soaked land of the Afrikaner," spiel is characteristic of the "whiteman," as he sees himself as the victim in his own mind, while it is apparent to the audience that the film is indeed about the Africans and their struggles. As one of the film's characters says something to the effect of, "we still have to live there, after all the whitemen come and leave with all our resources." The film is not forwarding dementia of some guilt-ridden race whom colonized, tortured and enslaved the native population for their resources, who believe they are, Africans as well, which I always cannot help myself from laughing with disgust when the likes of Chalize Thron claim that land as hers, as apparent in Caprio's character calling South Africa as Rhodesia, along with "fighting with the blacks in Angola... no apartheid in foxholes" meme. Granted Caprio's merc. has a memorable death, within the context of the film, but it is Solomon who lives on to tell the story, thus at least cinematically punctuating the "black" struggle far better. On a historical note, oh forgive me, the world's first concentration camp in modern era was in South Africa, not in Nazi Germany, in the aftermaths of the Boors War, led by Winston Churchill, of all people. Apparently at one point, the British Crown thought it wise to lock up earlier group of Dutch-Boor settlers once Cecil Rhodes, the racist colonial prick whom we now graciously bestow scholarship in his name for the next generation of culturally-superior indoctrinated, the likes our good Ol Arkansas (Charlamagne) Bill, the Rhodes Scholarship, discovered the vast riches in gold and diamond. Oh you poor things, you stole the natives' land, then you got locked up by someone higher up within your own racial food chain. Yeah, we really feel for you. As for your statement about Zwick feeling a bit didactic, I could not disagree with you more. Especially considering your comparison was to Constant Gardner. Garder was a cheesy flick guised in lame love story within poorly crafted political intrigue. With fake 'oh look, the white NGO girl made friends in Africa' with 'oh look one of the women who worked with her worked for MI6.' Talk about being obviously didactic while trying hard to look subtle. Talk about director or editor of limited skills. Unfortunately arthouse directors get away with their lack of experience and/or craft, too often. Though while most studio directors do indeed suffer from cliche story devices some do carry it off with grace, like Ed Zwick. Much could be said of TV series as well. However cliched the story devices may be, such as flashbacks, stylized camera tricks, as well as awashed use of "too shocking for TV" effects , even with all that, for example, Battlestar Galactica, is one of the best written and most politically challenging shows on TV. It was the only show, unlike cheap govt propaganda shows like 24, and the Sleeper Cell, which are clearly meant to rationalize the use of torture, Battlestar Galactica (BSG) has been an indictment on our execution of Iraqi invasion-occupation. This show deals with issues like suicide bombers, stolen elections, political expediency, secularism, religion in military, racism, rape, all within a span of less than 25 episodes. Despite being owned by one the largest war profiteering firms, GE, Sci-Fi channel managed to stir up debates that CNN and your very own Lehrer and Charlie Rose were too chicken to deal with. Yes, to all progressive media snobs, I dare you to watch BattleStar Galactica on Sci-Fi. On the more lyrical side we had Deadwood, with complex storylines, sidestories, and best english dialog since Shakespeare. But both BSG and Deadwood are an example that visual media can be eloquent with both cliched and uncommon storytelling devices. As for Blood Diamond trying to say too many things? Well, at least you learn something told in a coherent fashion. Want to see a cliche story mechanism, not working in a visually good looking, yet entertaining-enough film filled with historical and cultural inaccuracies with racist overtones that the director actually intended and yet the editing of the movie doesn't carry that side off, and inadvertantly sends a better message? Watch Apocalypto. Mel fails and succeeds miserably. Talk about being a schizo. Well Beth, if nothing at all, with Blood Diamond, at least you were educated on some new facts. Constant Gardner was a lame dud. I'd give Gardner 3 stars. As for me, Zwick' BD gets a 5.
December 16, 2006 at 09:30 AM
Thanks to Kapil for the information on KPCS, maybe Zwick should have included that in his end note to the film. I also hope that more people like Cy will seek out some films made about Africa by African directors; it's just interesting to see their perspective and how their storytelling approach often differes from that of Hollywood. And to Samuel, we'll just have to agree to disagree on Zwick. I think his intentions are good and his heart is in the right place but I have found all his films and his TV show severely lacking in artistry. I felt that The Constant Gardener was a far more compelling narrative than Zwick's very predictable and conventionally told Blood Diamond. Sure you can learn a few things from Zwick's film and it's easy to follow, but it just failed to impress me and more frequently it just annoyed me. But the fact that the film just grabbed some Golden Globe nominations probably means I'm in the minority in terms of my dislike for the film. Thanks Samuel for posting such a lively commentary. Thanks again to everyone who posts and keeps this site a great place to discuss film.
December 18, 2006 at 01:19 AM
Another poster commented: "...as apparent in Caprios character calling South Africa as Rhodesia, along with fighting with the blacks in Angola no apartheid in foxholes meme..." I really wish you would learn where Rhodesia was before spouting off in your rant. A good deal of non-Afrikaner South Africans of the character's age (31(?) in 1999) are Rhodesian by birth and had been raised there up until the late 70s. Placing a Rhodesian character with first hand experience with political violence into the mix with yet another senseless conflict made sense but unfortunately American audiences will be unable to appreciate any of the nuances in a movie centered in a area most would just call "Africa" as they can't even name five countries on the continent let alone the names many colonies used before independence.
December 19, 2006 at 01:19 AM
Beth, thank you so much for providing an intimate forum for a lively discussion. And to dear Zukisa, this will be my last entry on Blood Diamond, regardless of what or whom replies. My initial post was a film critique. It was not meant to spark a forum to compare who has more 2nd or third hand knowledge of history, which is how most of learn anything. Especially in the internet age, with such ease of availability of info, your knowledge is only as good as your ability to discern facts, and that I suppose, is all dependent on our own personal history and experiences. With that said, thanks, Zukisa, for clarifying my ignorance. Yes I do know where Rhodesia is. I'll do one better. That's why I'd like you to read the 1890-1953 portion of the following Wiki entry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhodesia I'm not out to "spout off," my American ignorance, nor do I engage in conversation for the sake of winning arguments. However, since you were astute enough to bring up the character's age 31, with the movie, set around 1999, which does set Danny Archer's childhood round about the fall of British colony and early to mid-phases of African independence movements, as you seem to advertise your pride in knowing such minutia, which it is to us the ignorant Americans, but perhaps more personal facet of your own international mystery history, but not fair enough to really gather what my point was, I'd like to state the following. My basic point is, the role of deluded victimhood in the minds of some of my fellow men; I referred to Rhodesia as South Africa, because both are misnomers from the colonial era. That's why I stated that whole spiel as a "meme." I hope you look that word up in the dictionary. Because that is indeed a meme, of deluded victimhood in the minds of many descendants of colonial masterdom. I'm not sure too many black Africans would appreciate you calling Zimbabwe, Rhodesia. (You may be black African for all I know, and may not mind. Then perhaps I may be wrong about what I may think someone aware of such history would feel and do.) And yes I find it ironic now that I'd even have to clarify "black" Africans, as the anglo-dutch descendants feel they have rightful claim, too. Oh believe me, I'm not counting us Americans out in our own black and Native Americans' genocide and land grabs. My point is, it's all part of the same erroneous colonial entitlement mentality. And I'd like to think you're aware of who Cecil Rhodes was. If not, for Rhodesia's namesake and the scholarship that bears his name, you really should. And the scholarship is not a repentant act like Alfred Nobel with dynamite. Look up Cecil Rhodes, along with the Russell Trust. Rhodes was no saint. In fact, he was a racist prick who ran up most of his fortunes from the illegal opium trade with China and India. Plus, I do hope you'd do a bit more research before subtle implied name calling via verbal attitude description and undue indignation, and take pride in "owning" knowledge gained from personal experiences, as if somehow if any one of us were to experience similar circumstances, it would be humanly incapable of us to understand what you went through. I do tend to find undue worldly-snobbery, in a lot of Americans who lived in other parts of the world; somehow they feel that they're entitled to some conversational hierarchy. And a bit of historical fact, "South Africa" did include "Rhodesia" in the early part of the 20th century, as the entire southern portion of Africa was illegally claimed by the British Crown, under the auspices of the British South Africa Co, the same corporatist coterie that brought us the Dutch East India Co. If you want to know more, please look up Venetian Black Nobility. The "black" is not referring to their skin tone, it is rather referring to their criminal ways. And look up who the largest land owner in America is. It's not Ted Turner, as Forbes magazines always says. And look up what their tie is to the Brith'-ish Royal Crown is, and why I would bring all that up in a discussion about South Africa and Rhodesia. Thank you for making such a broad statement like "...but unfortunately American audiences will be unable to appreciate any of the nuances...," especially when you're making a nuanced point, essentially about the need for more human sensitivity and manners in the world. Thanks for your ironic punctuation. So, with that in mind, we do live in the internet age. Most info is just a google click away. Nevertheless, I'd like to thank you, Zukisa for attempting to rebut my "rant." I know this really isn't the forum for complex issues like colonialism, racism, and racial identity. But more debate is definitely healthy. Sincerely, Samuel Baxter
December 20, 2006 at 01:29 AM
i love this so much!!! this is my favorite website in all the land.
December 24, 2006 at 03:16 PM
actually, archer is told "the shona say the colour comes from all the blood thats been spilled fighting over the land."
December 26, 2006 at 12:56 AM
Mr Baxter, I agree with almost everything you said. Whoever the original reviewer is, as you made clear, it is she who was pursuing a politically correct agenda, with her cavilling, ungenerous criticism. In short, this was a first-rate movie that told a story that gripped you and moved you. That is what we go to movies for. When the reviewer criticised the woman reporter as being a device, could one not level the same criticism towards Hamlet? Just another (yawn) dramatic character... If it is of interest, the book "The Rise and Fall of Diamonds" by Edward Jay Epstein (1981) is as fresh today as when it was written. The only point to make is that the Fall did not happen. The diamond cartel sucked all the new competitors in. Remember, the diamond of the movie went into the vault, a mere cost of doing business. As to whether the black guy would actually have been paid in real life, well, I might agree with Ms Cavil that the director did stretch belief a little. But Africa still does break your heart, doesn't it? FWIW, John Hanley
December 29, 2006 at 10:40 AM
Even though Samuel Baxter probably won't read this, I'm going to type it inanyways. Blood Diamond had a strong, important message, but I didn't really enjoy the director's style. It's very important that the world be informed about the past and ongoing injustices present in the sad, but beautiful continent of Africa. Colonialism was not good to Africa(well, it wasn't good to anyplace at all).It has caused complex problems all over the continent. White people are guilty for ruining much of Africa. Everywhere, innocent and honest people, quite like Solomon and his family, are suffering because of the aftermath of colonialism(which you all probably know). The point of my comment is to address something samuel said:"I always cannot help myself from laughing with disgust when the likes of Chalize Thron claim that land as hers". I am a white, Afrikaner, South African. I feel deeply guilty of many of the things my people did to Southern Africa and its people. Personally, I'm not guilty of racism or anything to do with apartheid since I'm quite young and I was born when the system was crumbling, and not yet in school when Nelson Mandela came to power. You scoff at Theron, but I can understand her. I was born in South Africa, it is my country, my land and I am proud of it. Not mine alone of course, it is mine as well as every African's, east indian's(yes, there are many here)and coloured's country. My ancestor's took it in a very unjust manner, so people like me are in an unfortunate position. Because of apartheid, I am unwelcome in the country I was born and grew up in. Because of apartheid the rest of the world almost automatically views me as a prejudiced racist monster. I'm not a racist, I've never committed a racist act. I love and honour Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu as they are humans of the best kind. Why do you scorn me, laugh at people like me who claim our home as Africa. My ancestors came almost 300 years ago. Where else is my home except South Africa? Now, perhaps, you can understand that many of us have heavy hearts, as today we belong neither in Africa nor outside of Africa.
December 30, 2006 at 06:10 AM
Excellent movie. I have lived in Africa all my life. The truth is it would be much better of for everyone, black and white if European rule had not ended. I would also like to point out that this whole whoever was on the land first argument is a load of BS. The bushmen were the first in Zimbabwe and were removed by the Shona. I dont here anyone claiming the Shona should be sorry. It is ironic that liberal Americans are often blinded by ignorance because they generally are intellegent people. I guess intelligence and objective rationality are not always related.
December 31, 2006 at 12:55 PM
Some level of intelligence and objective rationality might help flesh out SP's remarks about European rule being best for Africa; Just what are these benefits?
January 04, 2007 at 01:36 PM
Why anyone would recommend Wikipedia to anyone wanting to learn about African history is far beyond me. If your internet has the parental lockout feature I suggest using it to ensure that your children do not get a false education. The Blood Diamond does extremely well to pack in so much African history into a two to three hour movie. When reviewing the movie you must keep in mind that most people don't know the truth behind the illegal diamond trade in Africa. Yes, we do all have some sort of an idea about it but Zwick really takes us there without making the audience feel too uncomfortable. If you want to feel uncomfortable and learn all there is about the plight of Africa then you should consider visiting Africa for yourself. If you want to be entertained then go to the movies. As for 'the message', I think Zwick stays well in accordance with any advertiser's number one rule when writing for a mass audience: keep it simple stupid! If The Blood Diamond fails to make you understand the origins of certain diamonds we demand, and you don't think twice when thinking about your next diamond purchase, then you need not worry because chances are you won't be able to afford to buy them anyway! Beth, your review was great. I disagree with most of what you said but I don't want to argue with someone who has seen more films than I have. You opened up many different dimensions of the movie that would otherwise have been overlooked. And that, they say, is always a good thing.
January 06, 2007 at 07:02 PM
Why are the Afrikaans still vilified? It is amazing this still occurs. They do not control the diamond trade or the mercenary trade in Africa. Most individuals with Afrikaans surnames were portrayed as immoral, morally bankrupt and without ethics. This is a far cry from the truth who dominates the gem and mercenary trade in Southern Africa. Typical for Hollywood fot not publishing the entire truth.
January 07, 2007 at 12:21 PM
As you said, the better, 'deeper' movie 'came and go in a week'. So do you think if the movie was approached the other way it would be so widely recognized?
January 08, 2007 at 03:55 AM
this is how I know if a movie is good: if you really I mean REALLY have to pee while you're watching the movie, but can't tear yourself away from it because you're so involved with it: that is an excellent movie. That was what it was like for me for the Constant Gardener. and that's how it is for Blood Diamond. I'm always surprised when movie critics just don't get it. Being a movie critic should mainly be about movie love, not criticism. criticism is for the New York Times Book review. Movies either suck or they don't. This is definitely one that doesn't suck. All of those criticsms of the movie that you've given are pretty weak. If you want accurate history, read a book. As for "depth", well (and I really don't mean to sound like a prick here, but. . .) that's what one's imagination is for. Actors and filmmakers can't do everything for you. As for your closing argument about how this movie failed in trying to prevent sales of conflict diamonds, i think you missed the point. while the diamond is the main star, the more important theme is human on human brutality. One of the goals of the movie was to take the average "latte sipping" self-involved american out of themselves for a few minutes and experience some kind of empathy and/or perspective of just how cheap life is in most parts of the world. for me, the scene where solomon bashes the rebel's head in with a shovel is a key example of what a good movie this is. it's gut wrenching. at the theater i saw the movie people were very pleased by this outcome. Sad? no. It shows the depth of emotional involvement which this movie is capable of elliciting and the kathartic power of it all. Any movie that does that (and repeatedly, scene after bloody scene like this movie has) is four stars, two thumbs up, grade "A" entertainment. period. plus Leo diCaprio further proves that he's a movie star like Humphrey Bogart or Marlon Brando was a movie star.(coulda done without the Nas song at the end though. I like Nas, but it was just a bit too much.)
January 08, 2007 at 05:06 PM
Why might Solomon might have thought rule by the white colonial masters was better? The same reason an Iraqi might feel rule under Saddam was better- At least there was a modicum of law and order. Having witnessed his family and country torn to shreds before his eyes, a vote for law and order, even under the yoke of colonial evils, would make complete sense. He does raise the point of why on earth his fellow countrymen are doing this to each other. I'm no racist by any means, but is it not a bit simplistic if not naive to blame everything 100% on colonialism? No matter how evil colonialism was(and still is), at some point shooting, killing and raping woman, children and babies, does bear some personal responsibility. Does it not? Even if the conditions were set or made ripe by the remnants of colonialism.
January 09, 2007 at 12:46 PM
The last comment here by Paul Miller is by far the most pertinant as to why reasons exist for a "Blood Diamond" in the first place. I'm a movie dropkick so I will not even try for an artistic Critique. But as a man so deeply disturbed by the appalling day to day atrocities we seem to keep inflicting upon one another, I would hope to contribute in a meaningful manner. The correlation Paul makes with Iraq today as opposed to the the Iraq under Hussein is insightful at a high level and it is a pity more people do not follow this line of thinking to come up with solutions to humanity's plethora of problems. One of the most defining factors of today's world, which holds portent for all humans for decades to come,is the reaction to 911 and the aftermath such as extraordinary renditions and Guantanamo. What is the one defining principle which underpins all we hold as civilised? It is the-Rule of Law- The one and possibly most important thing that Zwick does with this film is to show what happens when the rule of law has disintergrated and the underworld of drugs, guns, and the power inherent within thier abuse is unleashed against quiet dignified society. As to Pauls qestioning as to whether all the historic atrocities can simplistically and naively be slated to colonialism thereby obsolving any personal responsibilty, might I say this. Paul, from my limited education I have come to understand that 'Colonisers' aka Liberators, contrary to protestation from The White House, Downing street et al, came for one thing. The plunder. And this in and of itself would not have been as evil as it has been, if the colonialists had been prepared even a little to share the prosperity, not only of the material gain, but more importantly, access to the education systems which put them in such good staid. If, as a child, you had been exposed to the harshest cruelties month in month out, year in year out, with no access to any system of education which could ignite in you a flame of hope, what type of man do you think you would have evolved into? Possibly one who knew and cared for nothing beyond pain and hate. On this topic I think Zwicke has risen to the occasion masterfully with his characters. Firstly Archer recalling the rape and shooting of his mother, followed by the decapitation and meathook hanging of his father. His parting shot that,"God left this country a long time ago" is deeply poignant and true of most countries today.As flowing counterpunch he follows this throughout the film,with a gentle dignified Solomon's deep belief that he will love and educate his son beyond butchery. As if to answer this, a line can be found in the closing stages where the Rebel Leader/Child debaucher says to Solomon,.. 'You think I'm the Devil. Well that's because I have lived in Hell, and I want to get out".. I take every opportunity I can to write to local media/political forums about all the injustice I see around me. With this movie Zwick has made realise how futile my efforts are. Only the rich and powerful can put an end to suffering upon this Planet, but they won't. Because, for the most part, that is how the become and stay rich,and powerful. As I said, I am no movie critic, but if I have come away from Zwick's work with these thoughts churning up my mind, do think Zwick as done his job??
January 10, 2007 at 05:55 PM
To suggest that Africa was better off under colonialism is not only provocative and racist, it clearly uncovers ignorance of Africa as a whole from one who claims to have been born in Africa.Why not push your logic to its logical conclusion, and say that Africa would have been better of if White colonisers had never come in the first place?Or atleast redeem yourself with another what if, that if white masters had sought much more peaceful methods of leaving Africa in order and functional then Africa wouldn't be where it was.Does it not occur to you that the scramble for Africa, which happened in the 1800s in Belgium could have been carried out much better than just desecting tribal lands acording to the path of the river?I find your stance that Africa was better off under white rule disappointing and very offensive. Botswana,Namibia, South Africa and even Mozambique are better off now than they ever were under colonial rule.Perhaps what you should lament is the cruelty of those who benefitted the most from Africa's failures, those that chose to have Africa crumble because it helped their course. I heard someone say all Africans go to heaven, or else God is not fair.
January 11, 2007 at 12:57 PM
In a small follow up to Pauls comments about personal responsibility, and those saying that Zwick has not done enough. Possibly even a greater catastrophy than 'Blood Diamonds' to the overall well being of Africa, is the effect of children Kidapped and indoctrinated into a subculture of Drugs and Extremely violent brainwashing. How can any culture grow to civilised maturity when its children from ages as early as possibly six or seven are wisked away from school and anything resembling nurture, and are fed a steady diet of Heroin and murderous propaganda. Posssibly the greatest tragedy is that the so called 'Civilised' economic governments have put a token gesture to documents aimed at stopping Illegal diamond trading, but how much have they done to irradicate the need for "Children as Soldiers"? Did we not notice that Zwick posted a figure at the end of the film stating that its believed that there are still an estimated 200,000 children living the life that was depicted for Solomons son. If, as some say, Zwick tends to bash people over the head with his personal politics, I say, more power to him.
January 22, 2007 at 12:13 PM
Thanks, Beth, for 'wishing' more viewers would enjoy more cinema produced by African in Africa. Of course the same goes for every other region of the world. Don't forget though that all over the world people are producing entertainment - not for their own region - for Americans. The pay-off is bigger. Here in Qubec, we 'produced' both Cline Dion and Cirque du Soleil (as well as the flick "The Decline of the American Empire") mainly for consumption by US residents in popular spas like Las Vegas! I'll bet the same is coming down all around the globe. And thanks to all you silent readers of this. I'm amazed how many of you are reading my blog. More hits from KPBS than anywhere else, including the 'phenome' social network site where I'm now active: Digg.
Chris Tredoux, Durban, RSA
January 22, 2007 at 08:27 PM
When I saw the movie, I thought to myself how audiences around the world would react. As I thought the American people (not all of them) feel this is another stab at political correctness and a stab at the western media. Blood Diamond is extremely factual and very well portrayed by the actors. "Doos" was a word used by Archer to insult his rival that ruined his hotel room in search for the diamonds Archer might smuggle, South African Audiences laughed as they knew that, that Afrikaans expressions would not be enjoyed by audiences of other nations as they are not aware of its meaning. This movie is easier for African audiences to appreciate.
Chris Tredoux, Durban, RSA
January 22, 2007 at 08:39 PM
James Scott. Where are you from? Are are obivously not aware that Sierra Leone is a third world country! Governments are weak in Africa (not to mention corrupt) The leaders of most african nations does not care about their people, hence the poverty. this is only understood to those living in these conditions. Europe and America are blessed. I, as a white South African, need to contend with problems such as afirmative action due to a post-apartheid country!!!! I do however agree with you that Zwick did a flawless job.
January 26, 2007 at 05:50 PM
If you're interested Amnesty International has produced a free and easy to use shoppers guide on conflict diamonds: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_16809.pdf
January 28, 2007 at 12:21 PM
"POLITICAL CORRECTESS" IS A SILLY INDETERMINATE AND BASICALLY MEANINGLESS TERM.It put me off the entire critque. Comparingmovies simply because they have a similar theme- in this case Africa also strikes me as silly. If the critic is going to use a mindless term like "political correctness' then the term should be defined. What exactly is political correctness? It is a widely used term these days but does not bear analysis.Blood Diamond was a very entertaining movie. It is unpretentious and stands up as such.Leonardo was brilliant and I am now a fan of his.
January 30, 2007 at 11:07 AM
Considering this was a hollywood movie, I was very impressed with all the nuances, particularly of Archer's Zimbabwean character, it managed to capture. Most of which would have gone over the heads of anyone who hasn't been to Africa, and over the heads of many who have (including many South Africans). Firstly, there IS a difference between Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and South Africa, just as there is a difference between Canada and the USA. In many ways, Archer was a typical "ex-Rhodesian". Racist, yet with far more in common with his African brethren than with foreign counterparts, Archer is a product of the continent and it's painful struggles. His character reflected the internal dilemma that many white Africans are experiencing in post colonial Africa - a conscious realisation that their history in Africa was a disaster yet holding a powerful bond with the place thanks to recent ancestral connection and a "pioneer" culture forged by striving and strife - leading to guilt and crisis of identity. Ultimately, Archer kills Colonel Coetzee and gives the diamond to Vandy. His bond with Vandy (and perhaps moreso with Tia, his son), forced out of circumstance, is a new loyalty and a deeper loyalty than to Colonel Coetzee. White Africans are denied their African heritage but they cannot be given any other. To question that perhaps many Africans were better off under white rule is a common one in Africa, actually. Many ordinary Africans passed from being ruled by one autocratic political master to another and irrelevant of skin colour of the political leadership, they remained abused. And yes, it will still take some time before many African governments shift into an approach where they truly respect and protect the individual human rights of their citizens. It would be a great help if the most powerful corporations in the world adhered to fundamental principles of human rights in all of their affairs.
January 30, 2007 at 11:11 AM
I forgot to say, my estimation of Leonardo Di Caprio has increased a heck of a lot after watching this movie. Also, I didn't catch the pilot's name, but wasn't it an Isreali one?
January 31, 2007 at 11:38 AM
I've just discovered this blog and read the whole of your comments, thanks, it's facinating how internet can help develop fruitful exchange of ideas and thoughts. I saw "Blood Diamond" last night with one of my best friends - we went out of the movie in tears, feeling completely lost as we were re-discovereing the raining streets of Brussels around... Then we went for a drink (yes, that's our recognised priviledge to live in that part of the world and have such freedom) and started to discuss the movie and our reactions about it. One of the questions we put on the table was to wonder about the feelings of so many people around the world, having watched the film - and their way to react and potentially act about it. My friend and I are both in the NGO "business" (if I may say) but it didn't prevent us from feeling completely hopeless. Africa, as other parts of the world I'm more aware of (Eastern Europe in my case), is bleeding day after day and yet, we're there drinking a glass of French red wine, talking about our emotions... How do we differentiate "doing something good" from the guilty feeling of having been born in one of the best places on earth? Well, I won't say I have an answer (but this forum is a place to throw ideas, right?) as I'm probably still too young to get it as mature as possible, but maybe a first step in to actually do something...? Whatever, at all different levels possibly envisageable... I mean, from taking an abonment to Amnesty, to getting involved in a local association (social, cultural, whatever) to just talking to people again, here in the street, in the corridor... And I'm not preaching here, I'm really talking for myself (working in NGos doesn't guarantee not to turn into a stupid, self-centered human being, I can tell you!!) I know it sounds almost like a "lieu commun" but I don't know... did you happen to see "beyond borders"? Angelina Jolie is chocked by the reality she discovers through doctor Clive Owen and decides to work for the UNHCR: she doesn't choose to leave everything that is her own world, but to rearrange it around this discovery about another reality (far more priviledged) of the world... I just think eveyone has his/her part to do... That was all those thoughts that I had in my mind going to bed last night, after "Blood Diamond" and for that, just for that, thanks.
February 04, 2007 at 10:52 AM
Posted on 12:36PM January 22nd, 2007 by Chris Tredoux, Durban, RSA == James Scott. Where are you from? Are are obivously not aware that Sierra Leone is a third world country! Governments are weak in Africa (not to mention corrupt) The leaders of most african nations does not care about their people, hence the poverty. this is only understood to those living in these conditions. Europe and America are blessed. I, as a white South African, need to contend with problems such as afirmative action due to a post-apartheid country!!!! I do however agree with you that Zwick did a flawless job. == Well actually I live in Australia and I am most certainly aware that Sierra Leone is a third world remnant of French Colonialism.But unless I am mistaken I am pretty certain that I read somwhere very recently that it is making solid headway into rising beyond this state. And I am also aware that most African govts. are corrupt to the core and are little better than the rebels in Zwick film. Govt. gangsters doing the bidding for corrupt western political and business interests as opposed to caring for their own people.I try as much as I can to stay up to date with the filthy activies of rogue entities such as the CIA. I most certainly know that foreign intervention is disigned to destabalise and impoverish, so as to make access to billion dollar resources a fait accompli. That is what my comment about Rule of Law was for. The first thing to controlling a country is to destabalise its education, legal and monetary systems, by ensureing that the thugs and murderers and corrupt officaildom on your payroll are keeping the place in a state of constant chaos and terror.This in turn ensures laws can be enacted to deprive decent society of any and all legal rights. Antony Boyd makes an extremely critical observation here that, as well as things like the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, (KPCS), we the citizens of freer nation should not as Soiz says, be feeling guilty about being born in better parts of the world, but more so that we are absent mindedly dealing with western business without enforcing them to, prove thier credentials. As he says,.."It would be a great help if the most powerful corporations in the world adhered to fundamental principles of human rights in all of their affairs." But where is the Billion dollar bottom line profits in that? One thing Soiz says that is indesputable is how, against the best wishes of Global corporations and Govt. The "internet can help develop fruitful exchange of ideas and thoughts." The one thing that this forum, and NOT Zwicks film has done for me is to open my eyes and mind to the plight of decent white society in South Africa. Until this forum I ignorantly referred to ALL white South Africans as nothing but "Kaffir bashers" Another good point by Boyd.."White Africans are denied their African heritage but they cannot be given any other." I disagree with his romantic notion that Archer gave the diamond back to Vandy out of some noble calling. Rather I see it that he knew he was a dead man from the bullet under his arm, and it was prefferable than to die with it so that the mercinaries who were trailing very close, could retreive it. I am not saying that I do not believe that Archer had been changed somewhat by the experience of these two and his feelings for the reporter, but I do feel that had he been still fit and strong, his soldiers sense of survival and a chance to escape to Soiz's Europe would have held sway over Vandy's wellbeing. I am very certain that all who arrive at this forum fully appreciate the gift of this medium. To that end we should all ensure its future wellbeing stays in our hands. So, lets stay abreast of the game by ensuring that we and all our friend become active in ensuring that our SafetyNET stays in our control. keep an eye on events such as this, Bill Moyers The Net At Risk: Video: "The internet as we know it is at risk", http://www.pbs.org/moyers/media_players/chapter3-1.html because Big government and Big business is trying to take it from us!!
February 05, 2007 at 03:28 AM
I loved the film. I was shocked at this review, and wondered what buttons had been pushed. I agree with the person above who said The Constant Gardner was more obvious and boring. I appreciated that film, but I had to kind of force myself not to drift off, whereas this one held my interest throughout. And re the reporter character - she could have been me. I talk like that all the time. So she felt very real, to me. People who don't care much about the world don't believe others really do. But hey, we're out here. I didn't just like the film for its message, either. I loved the characters. The plight of a father having to win back his son from a horrific plight. A mercenary who had his consciousness bumped up a bit. The shocking way people could just pull a gun and kill each other, a very real depiction, from what I hear of people who have been there, of the situation in Africa, especially the Sudan, right now. And then there's the gorgeous scenery, the cheetah beside the truth, the tropical forests and deserts. I've always longed to visit Africa, even as I dread how it will undoubtedly change me forever. Add to that some compelling performances all around, and I was thoroughly engrossed. Sounds like the reviewer is young. That's all I can say in her defense.
February 05, 2007 at 03:33 AM
And to the poster who said the Kimberly Process prevents conflict diamonds from reaching the market, I'd suggest that person read this report by Global Witness: http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/diamond/2006/11atrisk.pdf Because the process is VOLUNTARY, and because so much money is at stake, conflict diamonds are still entering the market. It's going to take more than voluntary, uncontrolled standards to free Africa of this blight.
February 05, 2007 at 11:47 PM
If the above link to Internet Risk does not function properly go here for a summary. "This is the moment freedom begins" By Bill Moyers: "Virtually everything the average person sees or hears outside of her own personal communications, is determined by the interests of private, unaccountable executives and investors whose primary goal is increasing profits and raising the country's share price. More insidiously, this small group of elites determine what ordinary people do not see or hear. " Audio and transcript This is a must listen / read http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article16193.htm
February 20, 2007 at 09:18 PM
I am always interested in reading comments about anything that pertains to the so called British Empire. All the millions of words written and talked about British colonialism/the empire etc in Africa ,Asia Ireland etc etc can be reduced to two or three simple sentences. In the history of the world there has never been such a thing for any nation as "independence" as all nations have at one time or another been occupied or "owned" by another Since about 1000 AD there have been three powers that have been able to acquire possesions:England/Britain, Spain and France. If Britain had not created the British Empire it would have been created by the French or Spanish whose regimes were a hundred times more cruel vicious exploitive and corrupt than anything the British did and which would have left their victims French or Spanish speaking poverty stricken backwaters. By any standards the British Empire was a remarkable success and is not only not dead -it is thriving-in Hong Kong Singapore,Malaysia ,and now India (apart from Canada Australia New Zealand and indeed the USA) from where everything happening in that country-like the others mentioned- is due to the knowledge of the English language English culture British business practices and British law . If African countries cannot make the progress of these countries then indeed there may be something deeply wrong with them....You cannot blame British colonialism for this situation when most areas previously occupied by the British have flourished Think carefully before attacking the British Empire-you might be in a far worse situation.Hasta la Vista!! Bon Nuit!!!
February 23, 2007 at 02:32 PM
Lord truth, Simply another 'Pom' disavowed of truth and education. If you want to know just how brutal, cold and savage, the English race was, and possibly still is,go to a site called, www.shotatdawn.uk.org. The fact that 'English' as a language so dominates the globe is a marvel only attributal to the fact that at the time of the gtreatest explosion of global commerce took place, the "Brits" were at the height of their conquest, and to do business, meant trading in British currency, henceforth a grasp of its language was an assured ' Leg Up" Don't ever believe thet the "British Empire" was any less Venal, nor Murderously brutal, than any other "Conquerer" A simple study of how they treated the first white settlers of Australia, aka "Convicts" who were more often than not, just simple humans who did nothing more than to steal a loaf of bread to feed a dying child, will revaeal how magnanimous, and noble the rulers of the "British Empire" were.
March 12, 2007 at 06:16 AM
Africa is as much Archers as it is Solomon's...as a man of Indian descent born in Africa, I can tell you there is a connection that I made in that continent that will forever raise the hair on my neck everytime i think of Africa. As a race, Africa is the native land of the blacks--but dont you ever tell me that of any man living today, Africa is more his than mine.
April 01, 2007 at 12:15 AM
I wasn't sure whether or not to blog a comment, as I felt what I had to say just wouldn't register with most of the bloggers. Then I thought what the heck - everyone's adding their two cents so why don't I add my two pence As a British-African, I came out of the cinema thinking "Damn, I thought white film-makers stop making movies like that" I couldn't believe that there wasn't much said about its racial overtone - so thanks Beth This film portrayed every racial stereotype of Africans: gullible, naive, childlike, savage, incaple of governance. And of course, these backwards people needed a white knight in shining armour to save the day because these Africans aren't just intelligent enough to do it themselves. In my opinion, the film denied any emotional or intellectual development of the African characters;it was as if they were there to authenicate the beautiful scenery. The one African character who showed any redeeming qualities, remember the man who had the orphanage, was killed by his naivety. He stopped by the roadside to reason with two child soldiers and for his fortunes, they blew his brains out. Our man should have listened to our white hero, Leonardo, who advocating driving straight through them In my opinion, mainstream media continually to bombards us with negative images of Africa so that all we see or hear about Africa is wars,corrupt dicatators, aids, poverty, diease etc. And this film perpetuated those stereotypes. I applaud Zwick for having the zeal to take on such a contraversial subject and I enjoyed Leonardo's performance but what I couldn't take was how one -dimensional, and at times buffoonish, they made Africans to be One scene could actually be taken from a 1940's Tarzan movie. Remember the part when they are in the jungle and thet are encountered by the miltia, but then heroine pulls a camera, and this wonderous piece of wizardry is enough to bedazzle the miltia and soothe those African beasts - classic Tarzan! Im not advocating against the content of the film as it needs to be heard/seen but rather a balance in the portrayal of the African characters. Incidently, there is a docmentary called the "Real Blood Diamonds" which is quite harrowing but nevertheless highlights the issues of the diamond trade Wow, that feels good to get it off my chest.
April 02, 2007 at 06:06 PM
Segun, Thanks for the posting. I truly appreciated your perspective and your recommendation for the movie Real Blood Diamonds. I will make sure to look for that one. And thanks to everyone else who has helped keep this discussion going. It's an important subject and whether or not you liked the film, it's great to see a film help prompt a dialogue.
April 12, 2007 at 02:26 PM
Amendment, I just noticed that the above Link for shot at dawn did not respond. Interested people can try here. http://www.shotatdawn.org.uk/ James Scott
April 15, 2007 at 08:48 PM
I agree with Beth here. The problem with "Blood Diamond" is the same problem with "Last Samurai" and that flick "Beyond Borders." People of color are suffering and fighting and struggling, but all it does is serve as a backdrop for some white guy falling in love and seeking redemption. Blood Diamond shows the atrocities and explains a thing or two, yes, but upon my first viewing I found myself fast forwarding through all the scenes with DiCaprio and Connelly--they were irrelevant and unlikely. When a nation is racked by poverty and civil war, no one's thinking about falling in love, making dates, or flirting at a bar. They're too busy thinking about grabbing their family and getting the fuck out.
The Silent Majority
May 02, 2007 at 07:02 PM
This movie reviewer is hilarious. She accuses the director of political correctness, only to engage in it more than the director. She wrings her hand b/c a charachter speculates if the country was not better off under white rule, and then she gives us the old line that whites caused the problems. Lord, can there be a more PC notion than this?? European powers controlled other nations too, but only Africa has never crawled out of primitive times. Countries there have been independent for half a century and have still gone nowhere. Please, Miss Accomando, spare us. Everyone knows why Africa will always be a third-world country. And it will never change while men close thier eyes to reality. It's one thing to be PC. It's far worse to accuse other of it, while doing it yourself. It's sort of like Howard Dean complaining of it, when the party he represents is responsible for it in the first place.
May 04, 2007 at 02:06 PM
SILENT MAJORITY Writes:- "Everyone knows why Africa will always be a third-world country".. Well sorry to inform you, I must be from some other Planet because I do not "KNOW WHY" Africa .."Will Always Be a Third-World Country".. Since You are so gifted with wisdom, would you be so kind as to enlighten the Ignorant such as I, just precisely as to Why, the true peoples of Africa must spend Eternity being treated as substandard, impoverished and Brutalised citizens of earth??
May 18, 2007 at 04:38 AM
Beth - I would have enjoyed this review better if you stuck to reviewing the movie as opposed to using it to foist your political beliefs (such as they are) upon us. You trot out the sad little ditty about poor Africa still recovering from the yoke of colonialism, and yet ignore th fact that Africa is not the only continent that suffered under and had to recover from such conditions and have done so without falling prey to the same excesses of violence and brutality that characterise Africa (you might want to look at some southeast Asian countries - though of course, you might not, as it would contradict your premise...). You later go on to misquote one of the characters, who , in respose to the DiCaprio character says "We've always been here and we'll be here after you're gone" - nothing about resources - as you'll note. I wonder why you added that? Your refusal to judge this movie upon it's merits, and your continual harping upon this idea that no one but an African can tell a story about Africa is patently absurd. When an Indian filmaker tells a story about England, we applaud - but let a white try to tell a story about Africa and - let's face it - this is what you are implying - he or she is a racist, ill-informed and unable to tell the story. Grow up Beth - it is viewpoints like yours that ensure that our world remains divided by racial lines.
May 24, 2007 at 05:55 AM
Well I have to say that I'm impressed that people are still posting about Blood Diamond nearly a half year after it opened. Thanks to all who are keeping the debate lively. I just watched Glory with my son for his class assignment on the Civil War. Glory and Blood Diamond are both directed by Edward Zwick. Seeing Glory again and reading Mr. Thomson's comments above prompted me to post again. Mr. Thomson asked that I judge the "movie on its merits," which is what I thought I had done but let me be clearer. Edwick Zwick's works--going back to his whiny TV show thirtysomething--have always failed to impress me. He is a cloying, maudlin filmmaker whose characters are trite and uninvolving. From a technical standpoint, his films display a pedestrian simplicity of both narrative structure and visual style. Making a long film with big wide vistas do not constitute art but maybe they can masquerade as pop entertainment. If he did not try to tackle "important" issues, no one would give his films a second glance. Ill give him credit for smartly choosing material thats inherently compelling as the basis for his films--the 54th black regiment in the Civil War, an American fighting along side samurais, the diamond trade in Africaall these are marvelous foundations for films. Yet he brings neither artistic innovation nor intellectual insights to the subjects. I can commend him for bringing important issues to the forefront but I fail to find any artistry in the execution of his films. Politics aside, his films are ploddingly formulaic with characters that are--to quote Monty Python--"wah-fer thin." thirtysomething and his early feature About Last Night were essentially free of overt political content yet they suffered from the same flaws as Glory and Blood Diamond--they are all artistically unimpressive. His films always make me feel like I'm being lectured to--even About Last Night felt like a whiny lecture on how not to conduct your relationship with the opposite sex. As for Mr. Thomsons comment, "your continual harping upon this idea that no one but an African can tell a story about Africa is patently absurd." I guess you didn't read my entire review. I recommended films on Africa by a Brazillian filmmaker (The Constant Gardener), a white Australian (Catch a Fire) and a white American (Amandla). So I am more than open to a good film about Africa from a non-African. I just don't like Edward Zwick's film. The point I was trying to make is not that only Africans should be allowed to make films about Africa but that it would be nice to have more stories about Africa from Africans because it's a perspective we do not get very often in the U.S. I don't care who the filmmaker is so long as the film is good. So I don't think Zwick is--as you seem to think I was saying--either a racist or ill-informed. But he is unable to tell the story well. Thanks again to all who have posted. This film along with The Prestige and Casino Royale have maintained the longest-running most energetic and most far-reaching (geographically speaking) discussions.
June 11, 2007 at 10:29 PM
Actually Beth, Zwick did not demand that the trade of diamonds stop. He simply stated at the end that by good faith we should check the background of the diamond before purchasing....and even though some still slip through, checking will help prevent the support of "bad" diamonds. And yes, diamonds do in a sense come engraved with their background. ~Rochel H.
June 29, 2007 at 10:58 PM
An almost laughable review from someone who has probably never gotten closer to Africa than listening to the "Toto" song and has absolutely zero understanding of the relationship between white africans and their home. Genuinely pathetic.
June 29, 2007 at 11:38 PM
I don't pretend to be an expert on Africa by any means but just for your information, my grandfather worked for the United Nations in Africa (mostly Ethiopia and Ivory Coast)for years and close friends of the family ran a newspaper in Kenya. Plus, I have watched the films of Ousmane Sembene and Diop Membety--both African filmmakers living and working in Africa. But maybe these facts have provided me with more of a black African perspective rather than a white one. I wish you has tried to offer some insights about this relationship between white Africans and their home. That at least would add to the discussion. And Zwick's film failed in a similar manner because he offered no insights either, just Hollywood style cliches. And sorry to disappoint you but I've never even heard the "Toto" song. Thanks for posting.
September 14, 2007 at 03:43 PM
its a reall y good movie soooo far
October 07, 2007 at 08:09 AM
I watched this on HBO tonight & enjoyed the story as well as some of the characters (although there's clearly several chunks of straight-cut cream cheese in the film)... Right after it wrapped, I did some couch-Googlizing (yes, the wonders of WiFi !!) and found this Blog, much of which made interesting reading. Having been born & raised in the south of England, lived in West Germany for a few years in the early 70's with the British Army and in various placed around the US since the late 70's, I've met & spent time with several folks from what used to be Rhodesia as well as South Africa. Thanks to Beth for creating & monitoring this blog... as a potentailly interesting perspective on what today's world rotates around, what might you think that the 1.9 bazillion folks in Asia worry about most days? Would be guessing that it's not Blood Diamonds...
October 07, 2007 at 07:56 PM
Don, Thanks for your bringing your perspective into the mix.
Leandro de la Cruz
January 03, 2008 at 12:10 AM
I much appreciate all the well-informed posts. I know very little about African history, growing up in the United States but I don't think it is a uniquely American ignorance. This movie made me care, and I do still, having watched the film on a plane yesterday. Much like I cared when I recently watched a documentary on Darfur narrated by George Clooney. But what makes that interest so fleeting for us humans that have it good, those that don't worry about getting enough to eat or being killed in our sleep? I say this in honesty, that in a few months, I will likely just glance over Africa (or Latin America, etc) in the paper. I will be consumed with problems or issues that now seem so small in comparison. Very few are willing to go through the self-sacrifice to make a difference, even if it is helping solve a problem for one person, not a whole country or continent. Maybe evolution? maybe those that survived over the years were those that looked out for themselves and their family first. Maybe it is just too far away, that all the suffering is just not as real. I know this is a movie review forum, but after discussing colonialism, I thought it may not be a stretch to focus on morality
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