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Tuesday, January 02, 2007


The bullets fly, blood is everywhere, families are displaced, it is conflict at its worst. Bearing witness journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly) comments how this would get an insignificant hit on the news somewhere between 'weather and sports'. The reality of our times. Think of the number of times you've seen the most expensive painting, the grandest party, the sleekest phone - the list goes on. Often conflicts in countries like Sierra Leone are viewed as conflicts that are simply too far away.

But as Greg Campbell, author of 'Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones' (Westview Press) noted "the story of Sierra Leone's diamond war has proved unequivocally that the world ignores Africa and its problems at its peril. Events far from home often have very tangible impact, and Sierra Leone has shown the world that there is no longer any such thing as an 'isolated, regional conflict.' Perhaps there never was."

Perhaps that's one of the reasons why 'Blood Diamond' - the compelling cinematic rendition of the ugly side of the diamond industry tugs at the heart strings. An action film with a serious social message, it is set in Sierra Leone during the bloodshed of the 1990s.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Archer, a diamond smuggler whose only ticket out of a dangerous, hellish life in Sierra Leone is Solomon, a fisherman played by Djimon Hounsou. Solomon who was picked up the rebels is forced to work in a diamond mine. Here he comes across a rare pink diamond, which could re-unite him with his family. The two have a chance encounter in prison and Archer makes sure their paths cross again.

Enter Maddy Bowen, a determined American journalist intent on exposing Archer and his ruthless employers. 'Blood Diamond' weaves the journey and unlikely alliance of these three people. All on different missions. One wants the truth and the expose, another wants escape, and still another wants his family back.

So what will be the price of riches, the ultimate scoop or peace? Together with the diamonds, the gritty depiction of child soldiers calls for soul-searching. As the actors take you on a journey you will never forget, you end up getting a new perspective on your bling.

DiCaprio who has got a Golden Globe nomination for his street-smart yet violently unpredictable character shines. But for me it's the intense Djimon Hounsou who does it together with his son Dia (Kagiso Kuypers). When you see him in his child soldier avataar, its impossible to believe that this is the 14 year old's screen debut. Together the father and son, trapped in an unfortunate conflict, embody the never-say-die attitude of this immensely gripping film.

If you think what you see on the screen is exaggerated, then read more about the UN General Assembly's resolution on 'conflict diamonds' here:

More proof that blood diamonds are for real appears in this chilling report in the Amnesty Magazine: