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''''Blood Diamond'''' Movie Sneak Preview - Review

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JohnQuixote

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On Dec 8 the movie Blood Diamond opens. It has been predicted to raise questions among consumers about the provenance of diamonds they purchase this holiday season, and into the new year. My lady and I were able to see a screening this weekend. I wrote these thoughts and impressions while they were fresh.

*** NO SPOILER BELOW ***

But this post describes some of the premise and graphic content of the movie.
If you want to remain completely antiseptic, page on back.

As far as the diamond industry goes:

Some in the trade were concerned that no temporal context would be given, but there was wording at the front of the film placing it in 1999 Sierra Leone. For that matter one bar scene showed TV news featuring the Clinton/Lewinsky story, just in case you were getting that $12 popcorn and soda during the opening credits. Close to the beginning is a portrayal of the 12/99 G8 Summit in Antwerp to provide background for the audience. This is artfully juxtaposed with action happening in the story line. A point of contention could be the percentage of world rough affected by illicit trade at the issue's zenith in the late 1990s. The film gives the figure as 15% (from NGO Global Witness) where industry sources have put it considerably lower, reduced to under 1% now.

The movie’s diamond industry bad guys are the all-powerful Van Der Kaap cartel (a DeBeers parody). Scrappy arms dealers take illicit rough as payment from rebels and smuggle it to neighboring Liberia. The Van Der Kaap cartel knowingly looks the other way and lets these conflict diamonds be sorted in with legitimate rough. Why? So that they acquire all available diamonds and store them in secret underground vaults in London. This way they control market prices (where have we heard this before?). Greed even drives officers in the legitimate government military, who overrun rebel-held diamond fields and make their own deals with the cartel. Though portrayed as a corrupt entity, Van Der Kaap remains faceless. The movie actually revolves around the plight of its two main actors, who have entirely different motivations for fanatically pursuing the 100 ct pink “Blood Diamond.”

As the film ends it states that the Kimberly Process came into being as a result of the conditions described. There is the caution that “it is still up to the consumer to insist that a diamond is conflict-free. The movie closes by citing that there are still 200,000 child soldiers in Africa. There is discussion about Apartheid and references are made to similar military actions in Africa revolving around ivory, oil, gold and rubber. It is strongly implied that if the greed didn’t revolve around diamonds it would be something else.

I think this movie can raise awareness about the scope of these issues in the 1990s and help people understand that such conditions still exist. Those who held no opinion before seeing it may want to find out more about the issues - and what they can do to help.

How was the movie?

In a word? Graphic. My lady has a high threshold for violence, but she put her face into my arm an unprecedented five times (due to violence involving children).

The storyline seems secondary to assuring that viewers are shocked by violence and chaos. It earns every bit of its R rating and the violence sometimes reminded me of my first viewing of Saving Private Ryan. I imagine the conditions being replicated are realistic, but I’ll tell my brother to keep my pre-teen nieces at home for this one. A recurring theme is speeding jeeps loaded with guys wielding AK-47s who blast around killing anyone and everyone in the open. There is sustained random slaying of women and children, and gun-toting children doing the slaying. It’s not shoot first, ask questions later, it’s shoot and keep shooting until nothing moves. When jeeps stop people are jumping out to kill stragglers, cut off limbs and force people to labor camps. Young boys are abducted, told their parents are dead and brainwashed into becoming child soldiers. This is one focal point of the movie. Some of ‘rites of passage’ we see are these children naked and beaten, forced to fight each other, shooting prisoners while blindfolded, advancing side by side with AK-47s slaughtering a yard full of fleeing women and being injected with heroin. The worst siege is a RUF incursion into Freetown, where the now-familiar high-speed jeep attack is accompanied by torching buildings with surface to surface missiles, people thrown from balconies, a prisoner being jeep-dragged in chains and innocents shot by impromptu firing squads of 10-year old boys.

I predict the DVD version will test your sound system. Not five minutes goes by in the first hour without extended running, gunfire, explosions, shouting and screaming.

Yes, there are diamonds in the story but with so much stuff blowing up you rarely see them. A couple of moments do occur: As Leonardo DiCaprio explains how illicit diamonds come into the cartel’s control we see alternating scenes of a couple buying diamonds in what looks like an American or European jewelry store. A similar moment occurs late in the film when one of the film's characters examines diamonds in a London window display.

Positives

When the shooting stops I thought the acting was good, especially from DiCaprio who learned a consistent if not completely authentic accent. Djimon Hounsou is very believable. The other cast members support the two main guys just fine, mostly by shooting at them. Maybe Jennifer Connelly could have done more with her role, maybe not…my ears were ringing. The visual effects are Hollywood-great, even with the violent, life-is-cheap angle on steroids. Or maybe I’m just showing my age. Some action video games I see on Playstation have crazy-violent sensory input too… I think the women and children angle shook me up.

A few memorable lines

“TIA” (meaning ‘this is Africa,’ a phrase used to explain-away the chaos occurring there).
“Governments only want to stay in power until they’ve stolen enough to go somewhere else.”
“People back home wouldn’t buy a ring if they knew it cost somebody their hand.”
“Let’s hope they don’t discover oil here. Then we’d have real problems.”

Thoughts

I hope many people will see the movie. It will help professionals and enthusiasts spread understanding that "conflict-free" just scratches the surface.

The industry works hard to ensure conflict-free provenance for the end-user and for many consumers that is enough. The only drawback is that it overlooks the real issue which is those who still suffer in parts of Africa. As jewelry companies and consumers we may not be able to change governments or politics, but we can create commerce and benevolence to help those people. Spread the word that UNICEF is active in Africa. Development diamond initiatives like Rapaport's are evolving.

When family and friends see the movie I intend to pass on that buying “conflict-free” is an important step, but only a start. There is more we can do.

Finally

This post is not intended to reignite discussion we’ve already had.
Still, the movie will be seen by consumers and consumers like to ask questions.

Neil Beaty wrote an excellent journal article with good fundamental answers here:
http://journal.pricescope.com/Articles/39/1/How-to-avoid-Conflict-Diamonds.aspx
 

Sundial

Ideal_Rock
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Thanks for the info on this movie John. I have been curious as to what to expect.
 

RockDoc

Ideal_Rock
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Aug 15, 2000
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Spectacular review, John.......

You need your own show to critique films.

"Pollard at the Movies" or "Sir John at the Movies"?


Not sure Im gonna go see it. Not into shoot ''em up films, blood and gore.....

Rockdoc
 

Lynn B

Ideal_Rock
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May 9, 2004
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5,609
I agree - a VERY professional (and thorough) movie review. Thanks, John.

Well, I can tell you that is one movie that (despite my interest in all things diamonds!) I WON''T be seeing. It sounds grueling to watch.
 

KimberlyH

Ideal_Rock
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Jun 15, 2006
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7,485
Thanks for the review, John. I wasn''t so sure I wanted to see the movie for several reasons (#1 being I can''t stand DiCaprio), but you''ve peaked my interest a tiny bit. I appreciate your honesty as well as your reminder that more needs to be done than purchasing conflict free stones. It doesn''t even scratch the surface of the ills of Africa.
 

JohnQuixote

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Thanks for the kind comments. Starryeyed I hate ‘spoilers,’ so I tried to describe impressions without talking about the plot (the butler did it!).

I will be interested in hearing what others think of the depiction of the trade after viewing it. As much as I’d like to think I have objective eyes I’ve been ‘inside’ the profession long enough to know my perspective isn’t neutral. Have you ever watched a movie involving your occupation or hobby and started nitpicking the technical details…until your date shushes you?


I certainly haven’t…
 

belle

Super_Ideal_Rock
Joined
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10,285
great, great review sir john!

that was informative without giving anything away.
i''ll be curious what others think of it when they see it (the violence has me second guessing making a trip to the theater!)
 

brneyedgrl

Shiny_Rock
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Mar 11, 2006
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Well written review. :) I saw this movie this weekend, and my husband and I enjoyed it. I understand that De Beers tried to do some PR against the film.
 

Wink

Ideal_Rock
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May 3, 2001
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Date: 12/5/2006 12:05:10 PM
Author: JohnQuixote

Thanks for the kind comments. Starryeyed I hate ‘spoilers,’ so I tried to describe impressions without talking about the plot (the butler did it!).

I will be interested in hearing what others think of the depiction of the trade after viewing it. As much as I’d like to think I have objective eyes I’ve been ‘inside’ the profession long enough to know my perspective isn’t neutral. Have you ever watched a movie involving your occupation or hobby and started nitpicking the technical details…until your date shushes you?


I certainly haven’t…
Great reveiw John. It enabled me to not go see the movie, I had no idea it would be so violent. As a combat veteran, I do not do well with combat movies. First I start to nitpic the implausibility of the inevitable hero does impossible things, then I get mad then it goes downhill from there and I spend the next few weeks trying to dig back out of the hole. War IS hell and having once lived it I am glad to take a pass on watching it. Thanks for being my eyes, I think I will join your lady in keeping my eyes buried in your shoulder as far as the movie goes.

I am glad that it is being shown for those with the stomach to watch it, and I hope that they will come to know that the jewelry trade has been working on this issue for a LONG time before the press ever got ahold of it. Whiile I agree completely with those who say that even 1% is too much, I also revell in the knowledge that our trade has been able to get governments to support us in our efforts to reduce the amount of these conflict diamonds in the market!

Wink
 

Garry H (Cut Nut)

Super_Ideal_Rock
Trade
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Well John, I think you talked Drena and I away from seeing it.

We saw Hotel Ruwanda and that was harrowing enough - and there were no diamonds or raw materials to inspire a complete tribal racial wipeout. Idi Amin managed the same and today the same is happening in Darfour and the world powers pontificate and aid groups think it is too dangerous to go help.

Yet where ever there is enough oil there are plenty of interventions - so blaming diamonds does not go down well with me.

As for the % of diamonds coming form that region - here is some 2002 stats from Rio who have mines in Australia and Canada and could be said to have a vested interest in promoting non conflict diamonds

PRODUCER US$B 2002
Botswana 2.2
Russia 1.5
Angola 1.0
South Africa 0.8
D.R. Congo 0.6
Canada 0.6
Namibia 0.4
Australia 0.4
Other 0.4
TOTAL 7.9
Source: Rio Tinto Diamonds
Value of World Production - 2002 http://www.riotintodiamonds.com/common/uploads/Publications/files/RTD%20Industry%20Review%202003.pdf

The ''other'' includes South America and several other African nations - so it is hard to imagine that 15% ever came out of West Africa.

But it is pleasing to see that Angola is now grown by more than 20% as they were war torn and diamonds are helping grow their standard of living today

Figure 4: Value of World Production 2oo5
Producer US$B
Botswana 3.3
Russia 2.1
Canada 1.3
South Africa 1.6
Angola 1.2
D.R.Congo 1.1
Namibia o.8
Australia o.5
Other o.8
Total 12.9
 

gemmy1

Rough_Rock
Joined
Feb 25, 2006
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64
Excellent review John. I saw the movie over the weekend and you nailed it. I must say I was somewhat relieved that it did not blatantly demonize the diamond industry. It was more a love story set with a backdrop of danger, intrigue and violence and an exploration of mankinds'' capacity for bothe good and evil.

Like you, I think it is a worthwhile film in that it raises awareness of the continual need for governments and industy to work together to prevent things of this nature from occurring. And it points up the vital role that journalists and watchdog groups play in forcing collective action to solve problems.

I think Garry makes an important point about the revenues flowing back into the producing countries. This seems to be the challenge now that the flow of conflict diamonds has been largely shut off. If the parties to the Kimberly Process will take the partnership forward with vigor, much can be done to rebuild the war-ravaged communities and to enhance the development of all diamond producing areas. Indeed, the KP has the potential to become a model for other industries to lift up their underdeveloped trading partners.

I do think that there will be negative repurcussions from the film for our industry as many moviegoers will not seek out a balanced set of facts. If so, this will impact millions of people around the world and do further harm to the people victimized by the conflicts by reducing revenue needed for the rehabilitation of thier communities. I have made a lengthy post to my blog and put an article on my website with links to the World Diamond Council , Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada in an effort to do my part to broadcast the whole story.
 

JohnQuixote

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Date: 12/5/2006 3:45:38 PM
Author: brneyedgrl
Well written review. :) I saw this movie this weekend, and my husband and I enjoyed it. I understand that De Beers tried to do some PR against the film.

Thanks Brneyedgirl: There was a lot of he-said she-said between Hollywood and DeBeers as the opening approached. You can see why: The DeBeers parody (Van De Kaap) is not portrayed in a very good light, but frankly it could have been much worse.


Wink, Garry and Belle: I hope I didn’t throw cold water on any curiosity fires. In fact if you brace yourself for the violence I’d recommend for anyone with an interest in diamonds to see it. I’ve been three times now; first for the sneak preview, then WF sponsored an outing for all employees wanting to see it on opening night, and last night I attended with people from our GIA AA chapter. I pick up more each time. There are a lot of languages and cultural nuances to absorb. Also (aside from secretly being impressed with DiCaprio’s performance, shhh), I think James Newton Howard did a phenomenal job with the soundtrack. Please don’t make a decision to not-go based on my impressions. On the contrary; I’m quite interested in hearing yours.

 

JohnQuixote

Ideal_Rock
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Date: 12/11/2006 6:48:12 PM
Author: gemmy1

Excellent review John. I saw the movie over the weekend and you nailed it. I must say I was somewhat relieved that it did not blatantly demonize the diamond industry. It was more a love story set with a backdrop of danger, intrigue and violence and an exploration of mankinds' capacity for bothe good and evil.

Like you, I think it is a worthwhile film in that it raises awareness of the continual need for governments and industy to work together to prevent things of this nature from occurring. And it points up the vital role that journalists and watchdog groups play in forcing collective action to solve problems.

I think Garry makes an important point about the revenues flowing back into the producing countries. This seems to be the challenge now that the flow of conflict diamonds has been largely shut off. If the parties to the Kimberly Process will take the partnership forward with vigor, much can be done to rebuild the war-ravaged communities and to enhance the development of all diamond producing areas. Indeed, the KP has the potential to become a model for other industries to lift up their underdeveloped trading partners.

I do think that there will be negative repurcussions from the film for our industry as many moviegoers will not seek out a balanced set of facts. If so, this will impact millions of people around the world and do further harm to the people victimized by the conflicts by reducing revenue needed for the rehabilitation of thier communities. I have made a lengthy post to my blog and put an article on my website with links to the World Diamond Council , Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada in an effort to do my part to broadcast the whole story.
Thanks for giving your comments Bryan. We see eye to eye on this.
 

Wink

Ideal_Rock
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7,358
Thanks John, I will pass on this one. Always better to know this type of thing before I get into the movie.

Here is an interesting video on You-Tube from Martin Rapaport. He has an interesting take on the situation that I think bears hearing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHNuNCD0yM4

He is basically stating that if people quit buying diamonds that tens of thousands will starve. I think he is correct.

Wink
 

belle

Super_Ideal_Rock
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10,285
great, great video. thanks for sharing it.
let''s pass it on!
 

strmrdr

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having given this issue a lot of thought something that keeps coming up in my mind is where was these people when it was actually going on?
It would have been much better for the people there to get this kind of publicity while it was actually going on.
On the other hand it does put the industry on notice not to let it happen again so that''s good.
And if in that process the people of these countries reap more rewards and are less exploited than they were in the past then its a good thing.

But I cant get over the feeling that a lot of this is a day late and a dollar short.

As far as kids working full time goes that was the norm even in the US less than 70 years ago maybe with time they can move away from it but just like in the US its going to take time and development.
You cant pull a country 100 years into the future overnight no matter how much money you throw at it.

But on the other hand I don''t feel DeBeers is doing enough to make up for the exploitation of the past and its very sad that they got by with it for so long.
 

CaptAubrey

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Date: 12/13/2006 11:07:46 AM
Author: strmrdr
having given this issue a lot of thought something that keeps coming up in my mind is where was these people when it was actually going on?
It would have been much better for the people there to get this kind of publicity while it was actually going on.
On the other hand it does put the industry on notice not to let it happen again so that''s good.
And if in that process the people of these countries reap more rewards and are less exploited than they were in the past then its a good thing.

But I cant get over the feeling that a lot of this is a day late and a dollar short.
The answer, of course, is that Warner Brothers is in the movie business, not the charity business. However their marketing department tries to dress this event up, the bottom line is that WB would not have spent umpteen millions of dollars making this movie unless they believed it had a good chance of grossing far more than that. They''re taking advantage of an interesting cultural issue, period.

The same goes for Edward Zwick (the director). While he may or may not have had good motives in making the movie, he wouldn''t have even attempted it had he not believed it would be a money-maker.
 

pricescope

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8,266
Right on CA, also about millions spent on production - as long as product placement is an ongoing practice and nobody knows who payed for it i personally not taking any movie seriously.
Or i should think that Sony cell phones, computers and digital cameras were excessively used in 1978 (Casino Royal).
 

JohnQuixote

Ideal_Rock
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DiCaprio received two Golden Globe nominations today; one for Blood Diamond and another for The Departed. He appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno a few hours ago.

His visit with Leno revolved around Blood Diamond and his six-month experience in Africa. He gave a brief synopsis of the movie, but focused much more on his real-life experiences on the continent. He commented on the natural beauty of the country, his scuba-diving and safari adventures (with his 90 year old grandmother!) and getting to know the culture and the people.

I thought his description of what amazing attitudes the people have was moving. Even dealing with extreme poverty and a high aids rate they show a lust for life and are happy to be alive each and every day. My boss Brian was born and raised in South Africa and has told me the same thing many times. The most devastating conditions can’t conquer their spirits. As a musician and a drummer (those are NOT mutually exclusive
) I’ve had a love for African culture for many years; our richest rhythms are Afro-Cuban. DiCaprio said they would drive around and people would be literally dancing in the streets each day simply out of joy for life. He added that when you come back home it gives you a completely different attitude about where you’re from.

He also reiterated the importance of relief efforts and the fact that those who give do make a difference. I wrote down the remarks I thought meaningful to those who contribute:

DiCaprio: “We got to go to the orphanages for the SOS out there (SOS Africa) and see children that were having new opportunities in life, and it’s a great thing to see the money that we actually give in these richer countries going into something tangible like that. You know, seeing these orphans be able to have a new opportunity in life… It’s hard to make that connection when you donate from far away, but it does make a huge, huge difference when you see it.”

We’ve all seen the late-night commercials with celebrities pleading for pennies a day to support children. Sometimes we get so inundated that they may no longer resonate. It was refreshing to see him renew this message on primetime TV.

I used to dislike DiCaprio simply because a couple of past girlfriends ogled him in front of me…but I’ll admit respect for his comportment on this issue.
 
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