A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Blood Diamond
By Sheryl Byfield

In America, it's bling bling. But out here it's bling bang- Danny Archer (DiCaprio)

Blood Diamond is set in Sierra Leone during the civil war that wracked that nation throughout the 1990s. At the heart of the film is the country's vast store of conflict diamonds, called blood diamonds because of the blood shed in mining them. Random acts of violence erupt onto the screen - destabilizing the life of fisherman Solomon Vandy (Hounsou) who soon finds himself knee deep in brackish water sifting for diamonds at the barrel of a gun. The rare pink diamond he finds will either help liberate him from the clutches of the warlord intent on destroying his family or will lead to his death. A chance jailhouse encounter with Danny Archer (DiCaprio), a South African mercenary turned diamond trafficker, gives relevance to the fisherman's find.

Archer provides access to the necessary channels to clean and sell a diamond of that size and quality which otherwise would be useless to Solomon. Reluctantly, Solomon goes along with the plan to retrieve the diamond in hopes of rescuing his beloved son along the way. The trafficker knows his days are numbered. The diamond is his ticket out of Africa. He has no intention of sharing the proceeds with the fisherman.

Hounsou endows the fisherman with a quiet determination as he tries to rescue his son who has been turned into a brainwashed child soldier committing acts of atrocity against his own people. In an especially poignant scene, the fisherman wonders aloud why African lives are worth so little to Africans themselves. The diamond trafficker is unfazed. Archer, the child of murdered white Rhodesian farmers, had encountered the harshness of life too soon and had no illusions about his own goodness or that of the world around him. When the beautiful American journalist Maddy Bowen (Connelly) baits him for being a known trafficker of conflict diamonds, he calls her out on her hypocrisy. Intent on exposing the trail of blood that leads back to European diamond dealers and wanting his help, she believes that American women would no longer want diamond engagement rings if they knew how many lives were lost in the process. Archer almost laughs at her naiveté. He is shrewd and wise and understands that only in the midst of the chaos engulfing the country could resources that might otherwise be used to improve the lives of the population be so freely exploited.

This film is a must see for its lush cinematography and strong cast. DiCaprio was outstanding as the scarred South African trafficker able to negotiate the dangerous terrain of the brutal countryside. And though some might argue that Hounsou always plays the role of the noble African, his innocence was a welcome relief against the backdrop of such overwhelming violence. DiCaprio and Hounsou have both been nominated for Oscars (hyperlink to www.oscar.com), Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively. If Hounsou wins, it's his second nomination, the Cotenou-born actor will be the first African to have that distinction. For now, he is already a winner for bringing attention to an issue that haunts his homeland.