Hollywood glitz and political activism team up in Edward Zwick's new film 'Blood Diamond. With gruesome detail, the movie brings to the public the illegal trade of West African diamonds and its cost in human lives. The film's raw message has prompted the jewelry industry to respond.
Sierra Leone 1999. A civil war is raging between revolutionary militia and government forces. Both sides want control of the country's most precious natural resource: Diamonds. They smuggle out raw stones in exchange for money and guns. To get them, the rebels kidnap people and force them to work in marshy diamond fields. One of the captives is Solomon Vandy. He is a local fisherman. A man without a family. The rebels took his son. His wife and daughters have disappeared. All is lost for him until he finds a large pink rock.
Solomon believes that with the diamond he can get his family back. Only HE knows where it's hidden. But others want the stone and will do anything to get it. One of them is Danny Archer, a South African diamond smuggler.
Maddy Bowen, an American magazine reporter is also interested in diamonds.
In exchange for hard evidence Maddy helps Archer and Solomon move around the country. The two men take a dangerous trek in the fields of Sierra Leone looking for the hidden stone.
The movie is reminiscent of old Hollywood films with handsome adventurous men and beautiful mysterious women. Leonardo di Caprio plays Danny Archer. His rugged good looks and masculinity complement the seductive and yet innocent Maddy Bowen played by Jennifer Connelly. Together they make the perfect couple and the film's stunning cinematography enhances their romance. At the same time, Solomon Vandy, played by Benin-born actor Djimon Hounsou, personifies the passion and the pride of Africa.
Hollywood glitz aside, filmmaker Ed Zwick says it is the message of the story that makes the movie: Conflict diamonds fuel wars and tear lives apart. "[The film is] talking about child soldiers, talking about refugees, talking about mercenaries, talking about bad governance in Africa. So many things that became this canvas."
But, U.S. Diamond importer Ronnie Mervis says the film story, although interesting and informative, it is outdated. "The civil war in Sierra Leone occurred in the late 1990s," says Ronnie Mervis. "It ended somewhere around 2002. So the events by this time, as we go into 2007, are somewhat historic" he adds.
Today it is estimated that just 1 percent of diamonds sold in the United have a bloody origin. The movie Blood Diamond aims to inform and to sensitize the public about conflict diamonds. But most customers still don't know how to tell the difference between a blood diamond and a legitimate one. "I don't know," says a lady outside the jewelry store. "The quality would probably be the same and I wouldn't care where it came from."
Actress Jennifer Connelly says there are ways to tell the difference.
Diamond certification is regulated by the Kimberly Process, which was adopted by the international community under the auspices of the U.N. in 2002. "There are certificates of origin that accompany the diamonds, so that the consumer can be sure that the diamonds they buy are conflict- free" says the actress.
Will the movie hurt diamond sales during this Christmas season? Ronnie Mervis says no. " I think it's actually going to promote business. [The movie] is focusing attention in a way, in my opinion, that the producers of the movie never wanted to happen," he adds.
Overall the film has received good reviews but has failed to take the lead at the box office. Meanwhile, according to trade journals report, diamond jewelry is already one of this season's top holiday sellers, proving once again that diamonds are forever.