Sunday, January 07, 2007

My Take - Blood Diamond - starring Djimon Hounsou

A Movie Mini-Review
By: A. L. “Toni” Anderson

The fascinating previews of Blood Diamond (2006) name Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed - 2006) and Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind - 2001) as the film’s stars, omitting the award-winning and intense Djimon Hounsou. Despite the film’s misleading advertising, the Benin-born Hounsou (Amistad - 1997) clearly dominates both the story and the screen, from the film’s exciting opening to its riveting end. The film is directed by Edward Zwick (Traffic -2000); the original story and the screenplay are written by Charles Leavitt.

Solomon Vandy (Hounsou) is a humble fisherman, a proud Mende of Sierra Leone, West Africa. Also native to Sierra Leone is a billion dollar industry in smuggled and unreported “conflict” (blood) diamonds, fueling a gory civil war. The bloodthirsty Revolutionary United Front (financed by the government of nearby Liberia) commits atrocities against the Africans who will not join them. Some are mercifully murdered on the spot; others are mutilated. Yet others, mostly young boys, are taken under their sadistic wings; others who are strong enough to work are set to panning for diamonds. Solomon falls into the latter category, while his family escapes and are imprisoned in a refugee camp. He finds out soon enough that his son is not with the rest.

The plot of Blood Diamond revolves around Solomon’s search for his beloved son Dia (Kagiso Kuypers). In so doing, he forms an alliance with Danny Archer (DiCaprio), an opportunistic soldier of fortune, and Maddy Bowen (Connelly), a New York photojournalist almost too independent for her own good, each with his or her own reasons for wanting the boy found.

Despite an uncomfortable master-and-slave relationship between the fortune-hunting Archer and the grief-stricken Solomon, they ultimately come to an uneasy understanding — uneasy for the two of them, and uneasy for the viewer. To add to the discomfort, Blood Diamond sheds light on ugly aspects of the African diamond trade, wherein resource-rich areas are colonized for their wealth, and common diamonds are hoarded in order to keep the prices artificially high. It may change some minds as to the value of that “ice” on their fingers.

In spite of the sickening violence and its ever-present racism, the film is everything I had imagined it would be, and includes an unlikely (although short) car chase in the jungle. The sunsets over the African terrain are undeniably spectacular, in a way that they rarely are seen in urban America. Blood Diamond is excellent in nearly every regard, despite its all-too-common slighting of the African in favor of the European.

For its consciousness-raising efforts alone, I applaud this film. [RT 2:23]

♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠

[© 01/07/2007]



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