Blood Diamond (2006)
Set against the backdrop of civil war and chaos in 1990′s Sierra Leone, Blood Diamond is the story of Danny Archer – an ex mercenary from Zimbabwe – and Solomon Vandy – a Mende fisherman. Both men are African, but their histories as different as any can be, until their fates become joined in a common quest to recover a rare pink diamond that can transform their lives. While in prison for smuggling, Archer learns that Solomon – who was taken from his family and forced to work in the diamond fields – has found and hidden the extraordinary rough stone. With the help of Maddy Bowen, an American journalist whose idealism is tempered by a deepening connection with Archer, the two men embark on a trek through rebel territory, a journey that could save Solomon’s family and give Archer the second chance he thought he would never have.
Rated R for strong violence and language.
Runtime: 143 min
Country: USA | Germany
Language: English | Mende | Afrikaans
Company: Warner Bros. Pictures
A Faith Review by: Lisa M. Lewis-Jenkins
20 March 2010
Film Title: Blood Diamond
Year: 8 December 2006
Director: Edward Zwick (Directed films such as Glory, Traffic, I am Sam, The Last Samurai)
Current Availability and Formats: This film is currently available from video stores such as Blockbuster in both VHS and DVD. It is also available through Netflix and Amazon as electronic downloads or hard copy DVD/VHS.
Original Release Form and Venue: This film was first premiered in the USA before being premiered or released for foreign audiences. Interesting (yet not surprising) with one exception (Turkey) I found no release venues in Africa.
Genre: Action, Drama
Story Elements: I believe the two most important elements in this film are plot and character study. Of course the plot basedon the ethical dilema of blood diamonds is amazing. Yet another aspect I find just as powerful is the violation of the souls of children like Dia who are taken from their families and put in training camps where they are brainwashed to become merciless killers held in check by drugs, liquor, and the idea of their own power
Film Language Elements: The most important element in terms of film language is the setting itself. It is an integral part of the plot. Blood Diamond is set in 1999 in Sierra Leone where a fierce civil war has killed thousands of innocent civilians and driven more than a million people out of their homes and villages and into refugee camps.
Audience/Cultural Context Elements: This film has several cultural contextual elements that are important. In an interview in an Amnesty International publication, Edward Zwick said: ”Americans purchased nearly $38 billion worth of diamonds last year, accounting for more than half of global sales. I have nothing against diamonds (or rubies or emeralds or sapphires). I do object when their acquisition is complicit in the debasement of children or the destruction of a country. I find it unconscionable that the resources of the developing world are exploited for the sake of our vanity, and, above all, that billions of dollars of corporate profit are built on the backs of workers who are paid $1 a day.” However, in my opinion, is an important that we not turn this into a “wear a tshirt moral campaign”. This is a story about the complexities of moral realism, about the intractability of African conflict, about the violation of the souls of children like Dia who are taken from their families and put in training camps where they are brainwashed to become merciless killers held in check by drugs, liquor, and the idea of their own power over others.
This film should only be used only with adults…absolutely no youth, no children. It is important that this film be viewed in it’s entirety for many reasons. First, because of tendency to sound-bite answers to the problems of the third world. Second, we would also miss the whole piece about child soldiers. There is a tendency to sound-bite answers to the problems of the third world.
Theology is Found: Outside the film. I believe it is brought into the conversation by the teacher introducing theological truths.
Theological Themes for Conversation & Suggested Use of the Film: There are many possible themes for dialog
1. Film as Illustration: It is an Ethically-Driven film that calls for ethically driven conversation focused on the trade of conflict diamonds, the blood-thirsty nature of revolutionary conflict in Africa, the lack of post-colonial reconciliation, the role of private mercenary armies and the voyeuristic tendencies of western media coverage. In short conversation about ethical realism and how do we as christians begin to address these deeply disturbing issues.
2. Film as Critical Challenge: A second equally powerful disturbing topic is the violation of children drugged, brainwashed shot up on meth. amphetamines, drunk on bloodlust and functioning WAY outside the bounds of normative behavior. Perhaps the specific question is… where/how do we find hope amid the very real presence of evil in our world. For example: Solomon never loses hope in his son’s freedom and character (somehow the Prodigal Son comes to mind.
3. Bringing theology to bear upon this film can help us understand the the complexities of this film and responsible Chrisian ethics. I might compare and contrast the social gospel of Rauschenbush with responsible ethics of Reinhold Neibhur or Bonhoeffer.
Recommended Amount of Film to view: It is important that this film be viewed in it’s entirety for many reasons. First, because of tendency to sound-bite answers to the problems of the third world. Second, in order to fully understand the Dia’s journey, it is important to view the film the entire film.
Concluding Summary Remarks: Blood Diamond is, for the most part, a gripping, visually compelling and dramatically powerful film. It constructs a sense of terrifying realism as we are dropped deep into the senseless violence that gripped Sierra Leone before the turn of the century. It is a very difficult film to view and this should be taken into consideration when deciding to use this film. It is best suited for an adult setting where the group has had some experience working together as well as working with film as a theological dialog partner. In other words…this should not be a “first attempt” for groups that have not already studied in this format. There need to be considerable maturity in the group and a willingness to explore the dynamics ethical realism and the implications for our Christian life.