Movie: Blood Diamond
Warning: this film is definitely preachy. It has a "moral" and isn't shy about criticizing Americans for supporting civil wars in Africa by purchasing diamonds that fund the gun runners. For some, that preachiness overwhelms the film, but though I might have preferred it to be a little less heavy-handed (we are not stupid and don't need to be hammered), the preachiness did not bother me as much as it might have. For one, I don't buy diamonds anyway (I am not a fan of jewelry), so this was not targeted at me and I felt no guilt, and for another, I've lived in Africa and loved the authenticness of this tale. The casual cruelty of war in Africa is shocking for most Americans, but routine in countries where life is cheap. That made the quest of the central character, Solomon Senday, who's trying to rescue his kidnapped family, all the more poignant: here's a man willing to risk everything to save a life in a world where lives are so much chaff in the wind. The story's interesting: Senday's found a rare pink diamond worth millions and uses it to bribe Leo Dicaprio, who plays a South African gun runner, into helping him rescue his family; along for the ride is an American reporter played by Jennifer Connolly, who helps out by cutting through red tape. There were some fascinating sub-stories as well: the son's brainwashing by rebel troups and climactic confrontation with his long-suffering father was amazing. The end is somewhat predictable, as the soulless Dicaprio finds life-worth by helping the black man and the reporter is able to open the world's eyes to the deaths that surround conflict diamonds. While I enjoyed the film overall, it unfortunately is quite long and feels too much like health food: good for you but not necessarily tasty. The whole dilemma of conflict diamonds -- diamonds traded for guns are mixed with legitimate diamonds as a way around boycotts -- is never solved (I doubt there is a satisfactory answer) and the movie rather implies that buying diamonds of any kind supports civil wars, despite the film's own admission that the vast majority of diamonds are conflict free and boycotting those hurts the millions of legitimate workers whose livelihood depends on the diamond trade. Without a way to distinguish conflict diamonds from legitimate, there's no way to avoid supporting death in Africa short of a all-out boycott -- yet that means economic death for many. But all the controversy and simplication of complex problems aside, I still found the film remarkable, riveting, and well worth seeing. Two thumbs up.