Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Go See Blood Diamond

I like it when block buster films have the guts to deal with controversial issues and expose underhanded industries. I like it even better when a film such as this is set in Africa, a continent that so rarely makes it onto international news headlines. I encourage all of you to go and see this film, not only because it will cause you to think twice about the morality of the international diamond industry, but also because it will expose you to the tragedy that has often surrounded the extraction and control of Africa’s precious natural resources. It will also demonstrate the utter helplessness that affects the millions of men, women and children that live in failed, war-torn African states, in this case Sierra Leone.

I am also particularly interested in this film because it was shot primarily here in Mozambique. All of the urban and beach scenes were filmed in Maputo’s historic downtown and along the Marginal de Costa da Sol. During the months of April and May, this city was buzzing with camera crews, wannabe extras and star-struck film nuts drunk on the opportunity to steal a glimpse of Leonardo DiCaprio. I had many friends stand in line for hours in an effort to be an extra in the beach bar scene but alas I could not identify any of them when I watched the actual film. I was able to recognize all of the scenes that were shot down town, especially the elegant train station, Xipapanene market and the make shift buildings that they constructed specifically to blow up during the action sequences. One night, as my friends and I were emerging from a downtown pub, we stumbled upon a film set, complete with burnt out vehicles and 30 odd “corpses” strewn across the ground that had been prepared for a shoot the following morning. Definitely an added sense of eeriness to the already sketchy surroundings of the Maputo Baixa at night!!

This film joins the ranks of the other strong African films such as Hotel Rwanda, Tsotsi and The Last King of Scotland that brutally depict many of the horrors that have defined post-colonial Africa. Besides being shot in Maputo, the film had another strong link to Mozambique in that the violence of the Sierra Leonean rebel armies, and the subsequent conscription and brainwashing of child soldiers, was similar to the tactics used by RENAMO during Mozambique’s awful 15 year civil war. These child soldiers, separated from their families, as well as any decent sense of morality, would carry out senseless atrocities on innocent peasant villages, compounding the suffering of the rural population. Now Mozambique is being held up as an example of how to successfully rehabilitate and reintegrate these child soldiers back into their communities and their families using traditional healing and spiritual atonement practices. Now that peace has been declared in both Liberia and Sierra Leone, let us pray that the countless thousands that have been brainwashed by war can regain their sense of self and their place in society. There is still such a long way to go.

The film of course also touches on the issue of the “white man’s” role in African conflicts. Much of Africa’s violent post-colonial history can find its roots in the political and economic interests of external state or corporate actors. Mozambique was one of many African states used as a battleground for the ideological confrontation of the Cold War while Sierra Leone was one of many African states ripped apart by rivaling factions competing for the exclusive control of lucrative resource deposits. But how much can the white man be blamed for the disasters that have befallen the African continent over the past 50 years? This question is touched upon by Solomon Vandy’s character in the film when he ponders how so much violence has been allowed to occur between black communities in African countries. How much have external forces exacerbated the ethnic cleavages in Africa, encouraging carnal violence and full scale civil war? The film does a commendable job depicting the many faces of the white man in Africa: as colonizer, mercenary, homemaker, relief worker, journalist, criminal, idealist and boss.

I also felt the three lead actors were fantastic in this film, with DiCaprio and Hounsou giving particularly strong performances deserving of their Oscar nominations. Many people cringed at Leo’s attempt at a Rhodesian accent but I thought it was bang on that seemed to become more natural as the film progressed. Blood Diamond certainly is not a light hearted night out at the cinema but it is certainly a profound and thought provoking film about one of the darkest corners of the dark continent and a global industry that quite literally has blood on its hands. If any of you have seen the film and would like to share your thoughts please feel free to do so.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What no mention of the refugee camps or of the beautiful Jennifer Connelly? Come on Jared I expected more from you. But I agree, good flick!

12:42 a.m.  
Blogger Caitlin said...

Hey Jared, I have a blog now too, and I wrote something in relation to your post. Check it out: http://www.boilingover.net

It's not SPAM!!

1:46 p.m.  
Anonymous Anna Lerner in Sweden said...

dear jared.
I feel so happy reading your blog, like that happy feeling when you listen to a song that just fills you with joy, or remembering your fantastic performance with the rasta-boys doing Bob-Marley songs.
anyway, after seeing this movie I called Gus and told him: no diamonds in my ring...

all my love to you! you are very special to us and I am sure (in the name of the alchemist of Coelho) the earth soul or univers wants us to meet again - so we will, don't worrie!!


2:46 a.m.  
Blogger 민아 said...

Dear Jared
I was trying to find your e-mail or contact number but could not find it. I'm from KBS(Korean Broad Casting system). Will be going to take film on mozambique documentary. Please leave your e-mail by minatravel@live.co.za
Thank you

8:26 a.m.  
Blogger franticz said...

hi Jared, indeed it was a good review. Blood Diamond is one of my favorite movies. you touched almost all interesting and informative aspect of the movie, but why didn't you look at the movie with a postcolonial perspective. this movie in a way justifies the white man's dominance and control over the black or the colonized. without Archer solomon doesn't seem to find his son or freedom. don't you think we need to look at this movie with that kind of a theoretical stand?p

9:45 a.m.  

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