Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Movie review: Blood diamond

Saw the film a couple of days ago, and was impressed. Just a word of warning. It stars Leonardo Dicaprio as the lead actor, but don't expect this to be your typical "Action" film, its much more of a brutal and gritty war film with no comedy or romance whatsoever.

From the start to the end, there are dozens of scenes of mass murder and gunfire. The plot is set against the backdrop of Sierra Leone's civil war in 1999, where the rebels (RUF) slaughtered villages and kidnapped slaves from those who voted for the government. They use the slaves to mine diamonds, but seeing as diamonds purchased from conflict zones such as Sierra Leone were banned, the diamonds were smuggled to Liberia who would then claim they were mined in Liberia and export them to European and Western markets.

The money raised by the rebels was used to purchase more heavy weapons, slaughter enemies, blow up government buildings and take over the country. Up to this point, the movie seems devastatingly accurate and confronting about the realities in Sierra Leone.

But the script writers unfortunately tried to embed their own political bias and analysis into this movie in quite a few scenes. The main message was that "we", the Western world, despite the ban on diamond imports from conflict zones, were partly to blame for the violence. I say partly to blame, because the film definately places the majority of blame on the violent militias who brainwash children into becoming soldiers and engaging in slavery and savagery against each other.

Nevertheless, one character in the movie, playing a journalist said that nobody in the Western world would ever buy diamonds again if they knew the truth. A couple of other scenes try to draw a connection between the slave labor used to mine diamonds and Western diamond traders selling diamonds to women in boutique stores. And the most overt display of bias was the closing scene before the credits, where a black screen with text announced that since 2002, all Western nations signed an agreement to further regulate and ban imports of diamonds from conflict zones, followed by a message that since 2002, Sierra Leone has been at peace, hence trying to draw a link between the two news items which really have very little to do with each other.

Behind this misplaced idea is the firm belief, popular amongst left-wing circles, that westerners, white and affluent people, are to blame for a lot of the world's conflicts simply because we like to purchase resources such as oil, diamonds, gas and metals. Africa and the middle east are 2 such regions which are abundant in some of these precious resources, and under free markets, huge amounts of these resources would be purchased by foreign states in exchange for billions of dollars. Anti-globalisation freaks believe that somehow, these billions of dollars go towards fuelling conflicts, where tribes, gangs or militias often fight over land. This is pretty much what the script writer's of Blood Diamond are trying to say.

So the implication is .. Africans would be better off, living in more peaceful surrounds, if they didn't have an abundance of valuable diamonds and minerals in their countries ?

Are they somehow better off if billions of foreign dollars didn't flow into their country which *can* be used to then build housing, infrastructure, schools and hospitals ?

Of course not. People can use their savings to purchase things that they value to increase their happiness. The only shame is the violent conflicts which tear Africa apart create a higher demand for weapons and tanks instead of other goods and services.

Do the script-writers somehow believe that if Africa remained dirt poor and never received money for exporting precious commodities, that the violence would end ? The Rwandan genocide of a million Tutsis didn't require tanks and machine guns. The Hutu extremists simply used machettes and knives. Throughout North and South America, there are millions of firearms, yet we don't see bloodthirsty militias roaming the streets and massacring scores of innocent people.