Friday, December 08, 2006

Blood Diamond

Mr. Thel and I went to see Blood Diamond this evening. I'd felt a cold coming on all day, so I was half-hearted about going, but I figured I could just sort of doze through the movie if I wasn't up to paying attention.

Yeah. Right.

Leonardo DiCaprio's character is a diamond smuggler. He smuggles conflict diamonds out of Sierra Leone into Liberia, where they can be falsely certified as "conflict-free" diamonds. (I suppose that's meant to reassure consumers that the purchase of their diamond didn't help finance weapons in a war-torn nation, but it doesn't seem to mean anything about how well mine workers are treated in a so-called "conflict-free" area.)

But leave that for a moment. The smuggler is caught, he owes someone money, he hears about a diamond and spends the movie trying to find it so he can finance his escape from Africa. The movie goes to great lengths to show the brutality in the diamond mines, and to demonstrate the corruption inherent in the business of mining and selling rough diamonds.

Then at the very end of the movie, the summary sentences that cross the screen very sternly warn the audience that although the 2003 Kimberley Agreement aims to prevent the trade of conflict diamonds, it is "up to consumers to insist on conflict-free diamonds."

OK, that's great. Good for consumers who "insist on conflict-free diamonds." But the whole damn movie was predicated on the fact that conflict diamonds get smuggled around and passed off as being "conflict-free." The only guaranteed way to ensure that you don't have a conflict diamond? Don't buy a motherfucking diamond.

I've never understood the obsession with them anyway, so it's easy for me to talk. When I was planning my wedding and people would ask about a ring, I remember trying to breezily wave off questions with a comment about how I wasn't a big "diamond girl." Nobody really pushed me on it--I got a lot of blank smiles and, "Oh, okay," kinds of comments, though, because what a freak, right? I mean, everyone gets an engagement ring with a diamond on it. That's just the way it is. So for me to buy a simple silver braided band as a token of my love and affection...well, it was freakish in the eyes of most people. Or possibly pitiable, to some of them--like, oh, the poor thing, she can't even afford a proper wedding ring. I didn't care much what anybody thought about it by then, having already proved myself freakish in all kinds of other ways, but I was aware that it was still a certain level of flouting the expectations of my peers.

Frankly, the point of the wedding was the man at the front with me, so who cares about the rest of it. But I've always been fond of my plain little band. And I've never been happier that I don't own any diamonds than I am tonight.

Also, Leonardo DiCaprio? Is awesome in this movie. I quailed before some of the chilling glares he gave. I've never been a fan, but his character blew me away. Muddled accent or no, I thought the part was well-acted, and a departure from what I expect when I hear "Leonardo 'Titanic' DiCaprio."

Overall I'd give Blood Diamond a hearty two thumbs up. Aside from the clunky love interest that really should have been edited out (I involuntarily rolled my eyes Every. Single. Time. the female journalist delivered another clunky line, which unfortunately for her was most of her eyes are still recovering from all the rolling), there were several strong performances in addition to Leo's. It's a gut-wrenching glimpse into the chaos of life in a country being raped for its resources, and I'm all in favor of having more people pale at the idea of buying a chunk of compressed carbon. The article linked above concludes, "As no one knows better than the diamond industry itself, diamonds’ only value comes from sentimental associations in consumers’ minds. If those associations are replaced with images of war, rape, and death, the diamond’s beauty will not be forever." Hear, hear.