Blood Diamond (2006)

Charles Leavitt has written a true and revealing story about modern Africa incomparable in its uncompromising penetration of motive forces abounding on The Dark Continent. To do it justice on the screen is no small task, but one that director Edward Zwick satisfies with a vengeance. Blood Diamond examines a cartel’s injurious influence upon fragile social structures in emerging nations in the very best way any movie may, by telling honestly the personal stories that come about from the full social spectrum.

The violence is not that engineered for an action film, it is that which comes about when civil war is instigated and churned for profit and opportunity. When the same party that sells weapons is that used to pacify it; when the prize all parties desire has an artificial value and more impetus is intended to hide truth than to reveal it.

In short, Africa is a stage where upon the truth is stark enough to be undeniable and serves as a very good tap on the shoulder for similar atrocities committed in more subtle climes. Is the evil behind making killers out of ten year olds really that much worse than doing so out of eighteen year olds?

This is a movie that will lead the thoughtful to such questions as it visits, as well, the redeeming values of a father resorting to whatever he must to reunite his family, and the impact of his example upon those around him.

More than anything else its honesty opens the can of worms we find today throughout the world as more and more governments capitulate their responsibility to the governed out of corporate affiliation. Beginning with, of course, our own military/defense industry. The colonialism of empire has merely come to be the colonialism of corporate cartel in the Africa of today, something that need not resort in the slightest to international treaty or diplomatic restraints.

These are not distinctions missed by the subtle telling of this film’s storyline. One might miss the extent its long-range ramifications inject. The portrayal of how, for instance, the “blood diamond” is disposed (placed in a warehouse of lock boxes much the same way the Arc of the Holy Covenant is hidden away in the first Indiana Jones movie) and the significance of the production line of diamond cutters in Calcutta. This reviewer, emboldened by such candor is going to share a little more on this score with you. Somethings, even, that have never before been published (just read this review to its end.)

Although the performances of Leonardo DiCaprio (Danny Archer,) the lovely Jennifer Connelly (Maddy Bowen,) and the impeccable Arnold Vosloo (Colonel Coetzee) are in no way to be slighted, the most beautifully delivered scene is performed by the gifted Djimon Hounsou (Solomon Vandy) as he reclaims his son from the clutches of an acquired taste in killing. Reversing the dehumanization carries a more than contextual effect to what happens shortly thereafter and is just one of the many elements that set this movie so vastly apart some typical spin on African treatments we have seen trying to in some way approach an artless reflection of Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness. The movie even excels that great work for it challenges the very bastions upon which an entire world bases its status quo and the illusions of value upon which maintaining that status quo depend. Such illusions as the propped up values of diamonds and platinum, both based on maintaining a  power placement entrenched in the world today far exceeding any actual realized value, a euphemism in itself for false notions of “needful things”.

Toward the end of the eighteenth century Iberian Peninsula War of Spain with Portugal, Lisbon was overrun by the Spanish army. A three-story counting house was taken and and inside the soldiers were struck with a sight straight out of The Arabian Nights. All three floors were full of stacked coffin shaped sugar casks towering all the way to its twenty-foot ceilings. But the casks didn’t contain sugar. No, they contained raw diamonds, blue diamonds from the prolific diamond fields of Brazil’s Minais Gerait mineral district. An area that has been closed on pain of death for generations now.

At the end of this conflict, in 1822, when Dom Joao VI returned to Portugal from his exile in Brazil, he granted his son, Dom Pedro I, the kingdom of Brazil. In anticipation of this, years before, a retinue had been dispatched to Europe to seek out a bride of European royalty, to provide a suitable Queen. Its tour began in London with the first spectacular announcement, a banquet where each of the 300 place table settings had, in a fluffed napkin cradle, a perfectly flawless, perfectly prized mine-cut blue 3 carat diamond. At this time, all the diamonds in the English Crown jewel collection were replaced with superior ones, a gift from one royal family to another…from the Court of Dom Joao VI. And so it went until a suitable German princess was found for the heir apparent.

You are told diamonds are formed over millions of years. A lie, they are formed in minutes. You are told they are rare. A lie, historically proven over and over again. You are told they are almost unique to Africa. A lie, they are found upon all continents with the most unique found in Arkansas, USA. You are told the “D” or white diamond is the most prized. Another lie, the rose pink and canary yellow are by far more prized. You are told diamond is the most prized gemstone, carat for carat. A lie, the true smoky topaz is ten times more valuable, carat for carat. The finest quality black fire opal may exceed even that while rare sapphire, like a padparadscha and the finest chrysoberyl, alexandrite can reach values in excess of the finest diamonds.

Exciting finds have been found in China, even Canada…all to be suppressed with the money and “council” the powerful De Beers influence can wield. Toward the end of the Soviet system, a mammoth machine was developed that could placer mine the Siberian tundra deep within the permafrost zone. It would roll up the delicate surface peat moss, fill back in the gravel beneath after sorting it of valuable mineral and then lay the peat moss back, with a minimum of damage to the environment. Diamonds were being gathered by the 55 gallon drum full, but with nowhere to market them. The Soviets, desperate for cash,  gave them cheap cuts and unloaded them as some kind of new synthetic. No one picked up on the implications that all diamond detectors picked them up as real. They were.  Ironic, isn’t it?

And isn’t this movie wonderful in its subtlety?

Vastly too intense for children, even those stuck in violent video games for the duration of most of their childhood and might need the benefit of Mr. Vandy’s compelling scene with his son…another irony, less worthy, though far more alarming.

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