The release this week of ‘The Blood Diamond’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio has been plagued by controversy and debate.
The movie, set in Sierra Leone in 1999, follows the trail of a South African diamond hunter through the war-racked country as he searches for an elusive pink diamond hidden in a diamond field controlled by Sierra Leone?s guerilla force – the RUF.
Before the movie had even hit theaters, there had been international coverage surrounding the role diamonds have (or more to the point had) played in the civil war in Sierra Leone. Jewelry.com decided to wait and actually see the movie before talking about the facts, the fiction and the current reality of Sierra Leone and its diamond industry.
The movie itself is a great movie. It?s full of action, incredible performances by both Leonardo Di Caprio and Djimon Hounsou and stunning cinematography contrasting horrific images detailing the brutal civil war that continues in pockets of the country today with the country’s heavenly natural landscape.
The factual response by the diamond industry to the illegal transactions of conflict diamonds is where truth becomes overruled by fiction for the sake of a good story. After all, what excitement is there in noting that over six years ago, the international diamond industry met and outlawed all conflict diamonds? What story telling would it be, if the writers noted that no rough diamonds can be sold or bought without a certificate of origin? What suspense could be created in depicting how the diamond industry immediately reacted, together with Amnesty and Global Witness (two human rights organizations), in ensuring conflict diamonds would not be traded in the legitimate diamond industry and not one conflict diamond would enter the shores of the U.S.
The atrocities inflicted by the RUF are legendary for their callousness and total disregard for human life. The rebel force is not so much intent on overthrowing the government, rather on raping its country of its natural wealth for the benefit of despots whose aim is to enrich themselves from the blood of their own. In a weird twist of fate, diamonds were to become a plague for the country, rather than a benefit.
Other African nations have used the income they?ve earned from diamond sales to build peace and economic stability for all. South Africa, Botswana, Namibia are just some African countries, which, as succinctly stated by the government of Botswana ‘are using diamonds to transform the lives of our people.’
The movie brings to the fore an important issue, that of the plunder and rape of a country?s resource to enrich gun-welding monsters. It?s an emotional telling of a story that unfortunately is happening throughout the world over a variety of different resources. From liberty to oil, religious freedom to water. It’s a story that needs to be told over and over as long as the violence continues.
It’s an important message, but so is the message that 10 million people earn a living from diamonds. Not just the dealers in Europe or the retailers on 5th Avenue, but millions in Africa and India who would, quite literally, starve if not for the diamonds they work with. It’s the children in Botswana who are guaranteed an education until they are 13, thanks to the country’s diamond sales. It’s the health care all their citizens receive, paid for by diamond sales. It’s the hope for a continuing stable future for so many Southern African
countries due to their diamond riches, which they cherish and work, as nature intended.
It is a great movie and quite deservedly should be up there in many of the Oscar categories, Di Caprio surely is a shoe-in for a nomination, but first take a look at www.diamondfacts.org, so you see the whole picture. After all, there’s nothing worse than a blocked view.