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(Coffee) Shop Talk

Welcome to the shop where I talk about things that go well with coffee, which is almost everything.

Sooo…Blood Diamond. The impression I had at the end was that it was an awful travesty of an attempt to portray a terrible, complicated situation, a situation that deserved a more realistic and mature treatment. But by and large, the scenes that established problems were very good and believable; it was the resolution scenes were trite and frustrating. About half the character development scenes were spot-on (though usually with rather simplistic dialog), and the other half were just cheezy and silly.

The movie tries to address the issue of diamond companies that encourage the illegal smuggling of diamonds, fuel civil wars, and keep the value of diamonds inflated. It definitely conveys the message that everyone should try to make sure that the diamonds we buy are not from war zones.

However, after seeing the movie and doing some online research, I'm not sure that that is possible for the average consumer. According to http://www.un.org/peace/africa/Diamond.html, “Governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, diamond traders, financial institutions, arms manufacturers, social and educational institutions and other civil society players need to combine their efforts, demand the strict enforcement of sanctions and encourage real peace.” I'm not sure what individuals who can't even afford diamonds are supposed to do. I guess just be aware of where things you buy come from, be they sweat shops, war zones, or extorted third-world farmers, and act on that as your conscience compels you.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays a jaded, white, ex-military Zimbabwean smuggler who buys diamonds from a rebel warlord and sells them under the table to a corrupt diamond company. He does a pretty remarkable job with his role; his acting was great even when the script he had to work with wasn't so much. Djimon Hounsou plays a rural fisherman whose village is attacked by rebels. His oldest son, about 11 or 12 years old, is kidnapped and brainwashed into becoming a child-soldier and his wife and daughters end up in a refugee camp. He is sent to a diamond mining camp where he accidentally discovers a freaking ginormous diamond and hides it away at the risk of his life. Leo's character hears rumors of this diamond and tracks Hounsou's character down, telling him that if he takes him to the diamond he can get his family back. A hot, aggressive, socially conscious journalist (Jennifer Connelly) joins the quest on the condition that smuggler man tell her everything he knows about the smuggling ring. They survive a LOT of gunfire and several annoyingly predictable situations, and in the end the journalist and the fisherman get what they wanted (family and social justice, respectively), and the ostensibly morally bankrupt smuggler redeems himself in a heroic gesture of self-sacrifice.

There were three things that bothered me about the movie artistically: the overly perfect timing (gunfire occurs only when the characters are done having their emotional scene, Connelly's character sheds a perfectly-timed teardrop while conversing with dying smuggler-man), the ridiculous simplifying of subject matter (Dia's miraculous de-brainwashing, the happy ending with the family, plucky journalist totally diffusing conflict with militia men by taking their picture), and the incongruity of the storyline with the historical backdrop. I kept thinking, “that's real…that's Hollywood…that's real…that's Hollywood…” It was almost like two movies spliced together.

All the negative stuff having been said, I think that this may be a case similar to that of V for Vendetta in that I went in expecting way more than any mainstream movie can be expected to deliver. I wanted the movie to say something deep, nuanced, and real…of course, compared to V, Diamond was far more relevant and realistic (though, since V was based on a comic book and set in the future, I wasn't expecting nearly as much realism from it), but I felt like it needed a much stronger sense of futility. Like the sense of futility I feel every time I think about civil wars and moral ambivalence and intense, pervasive poverty and people who, despite what some of us would like to think, really have almost no choice about anything.

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