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Blood Diamond

Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond both entertains and educates and having seen the movie last weekend, I must agree. Read on:

Set atop the backdrop of civil war in 1990s Sierra Leone, Blood Diamond tells two very different, but equally gripping, stories: the first, an expose on the immoral and deadly conflict diamond trade; the second, a gripping depiction of the use of child soldiers by African guerillas. Sure, at first glance there may seem to be no link between these two tales. But as director Ed Zwick has noted, during this real-world time at this real-world place, one did not exist without the other.

Helping to maneuver audiences through these two stories are Solomon Vandy (played by Djimon Hounsou) — a Mende fisherman forced by African rebels to work the diamond fields — and Danny Archer (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) — an ex-mercenary-turned-diamond smuggler. Solomon finds the titular gem and hides it away, hoping to use its potential wealth to reunite with his family. Danny discovers this secret and wants in on the diamond’s sale. But when Solomon’s son is kidnapped and taken in by rebels as a child soldier, the two men become reluctant partners — in exchange for 50-percent of the diamond, Danny grudgingly agrees to help rescue the boy. Throw Maddy Bowen (played by Jennifer Connelly) — an American journalist with political pull who’s in Sierra Leone to uncover the truth behind conflict diamonds — into the mix and you have a gripping, action-packed story that’s sure to inform and inspire.

Upon screening Blood Diamond, this reviewer was struck with two harsh realities: the first having to do with his understanding of conflict diamonds, or lack thereof. Most people have some sort of passing knowledge as to what a conflict diamond is — the name alone speaks volumes. But perhaps what’s not so well known is how deep this illegal trade (stones smuggled out of countries at war, the proceeds of which are used to pay for more weapons) reaches into the lives of everyday people. The average villager in 1990s Sierra Leone lived in constant fear that he/she would be killed or turned into a slave, all to help spread the diamond trade. The average child of 1990s Sierra Leone lived with the thought that he/she could, in the blink of an eye, lose his/her innocence, forced to fight alongside the guerillas as a child soldier. And the average consumer of the so-called “First World” nations to this day lives in complete denial that the diamond he/she is buying could in fact be helping to continue this vicious cycle. Trust me: This film will generate a number of post-viewing conversations and will definitely make you think twice before forking down hundreds of dollars at Zales this holiday season.

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