BLOOD DIAMOND. Superb action thriller with a message

I would like to say – another pretentious film measuring up against the conscience of the Western world…

Rafał Oświeciński

10 March 2024

BLOOD DIAMOND. Superb action thriller with a message

…; a world that has forgotten about Africa, that ignores Africa, despite the millions of words spoken by political and showbiz media stars.

I would like, in my relentless criticism, to ridicule the noble intentions of the creators with diamonds on their fingers. I would like to, but I can’t. For a rather simple reason that, in its simplicity, touches upon the unwitting gullibility of the viewer – Blood Diamond is an important film.

Blood Diamond Leonardo DiCaprio Djimon Hounsou

There are many different ways to talk about Africa – you can show the savanna, lions, hyenas, and giraffes; you can show a tall Maasai and a small Pygmy; you can show Kenyan villages with crowds of tourists throwing dollars towards bead sellers. On the other side of the African curio shop, there is stubbornly stuck the image of flies in the eyes of starving children with distended bellies; there is the image of drought, scarcity, underdevelopment, wars, and AIDS. None of these clichés stored in the memory, in the associations of a Westerner, are illuminated. Africa is, of course, a thousand other shades of cultural, political, social, and economic issues, each of which deserves more attention, longer reflection. And since African colors look beautiful on the film reel, producers increasingly reach for scripts dealing with problems born there. A commendable ambition, because the sting comes from the previous ignorance – clear and deep.

Blood Diamond

Edward Zwick pondered the relationship between the white world and Black Africa. He’s not the first, and certainly not the last. Hotel Rwanda, Sometimes in April, Shooting Dogs (three equally good films about the genocide in Rwanda in 1994), The Constant Gardener (excellent cinema about the activities of pharmaceutical companies), The Last King of Scotland (about Idi Amin, the Ugandan tyrant) – each of these films commendably presents the political upheavals recurring across the continent. The main danger, when dealing with any tragedy of a more complex nature, lies in the pathos, which is a natural companion of popular world-view dilemmas. The previous debunkers of African mysteries managed to avoid it, and Zwick also emerged victorious from this difficult confrontation. Blood Diamond is an unconventional approach to the issue of diamond trade.

Blood Diamond Leonardo DiCaprio

Blood Diamond, in its highly attractive form of action-adventure, smuggles in uncomfortable and repulsive content, always truthful, not exaggerated. The image is shocking, but the conclusions drawn and the reflections encountered are clear, strong, unambiguous. Here, at the political center, is the relationship between the white man and the black man. Diamonds are extracted by forced labor, with a gun to the temple, and later adorn the fingers, necks, and ears of unsuspecting tragedy customers in jewelry stores. This is a fact – and at the same time a sort of moral accusation, an intellectual blackmail aimed at the viewer. How will the viewer deal with this problem? I don’t know, I’m not looking for answers for others, let each one, for their own benefit, activate reserves of empathy or ignorance. Because it’s not about political correctness, ideologies, beliefs – what matters is the awareness of the existence of certain events, people, behaviors, which somehow determine one’s perception of the world, even if it’s thousands of kilometers away.

Blood Diamond Leonardo DiCaprio Djimon Hounsou Jennifer Connelly

What most terrifies Westerners are child murderers. Often in Europe or America, voices of outrage and horror are raised at the news of crimes committed in schools, on the streets, in families, by beings who seem innocent and too weak to commit any crime. In Africa, no child with a gun worries, alarms, or intrigues anyone. African wars are children’s wars – wars of lonely, homeless children, orphaned by parents who fought and died starting from the time of decolonization. Here, a 10-year-old becomes a man – the army (the army! rather an armed gang!) gives a rifle, shelter, food, work, safety. That’s enough to survive, at least one more day.

Ryszard Kapuściński wrote in The Shadow of the Sun: “The armed skirmishes of children are particularly fierce and bloody, because a child has no instinct for self-preservation, does not feel or understand the horror of death, does not know the fear that maturity will bring.” And further: “Children’s wars have become possible also due to the development of technology. Hand-held automatic weapons are now light and short, their new generations increasingly resemble children’s toys. The old Mauser was too big, too heavy, too long for a child. The little child had too short a hand to easily reach the trigger, and the aiming line was also too long for his eye. Modern weapons solve these problems, remove these inconveniences. Their size fits perfectly with the figure of a boy, and in the hands of a tall, massive soldier, these pistols look funny and childish.”

Blood Diamond Leonardo DiCaprio Djimon Hounsou

This is one of the biggest surprises: perhaps for the first time, Hollywood encounters African tragedy, that is, exploitation, contemporary slavery, authentic death. Andrzej Zwaniecki says, “It’s propaganda wrapped in the framework of action-adventure cinema.” What the hell, propaganda?! Yes, it’s crafted sentimentally at the end, but that doesn’t change the fact that it talks about important matters, not stupid ones, worth longer reflection and even brief self-reflection! You can aim with absolute cynicism at the $100 million budget of Blood Diamond, at the momentary fashion of Dream Factory (really?), at the narrative naivety and dramatic simplicity, but… why? It won’t change anything – ignorance leads to thoughtlessness, barrenness, easiness. Seeing the problem that arose in Blood Diamond, seeing the background – authentic! – it’s impossible, at least for me, to transition painlessly to everyday life, impossible not to think about the situation in Africa, not to see it, to ignore it. Perhaps it’s about the subjectivity of perception, because I don’t deny that the problems of Africans affect me more than hunting for agents and a new Paris Hilton song.

Blood Diamond Leonardo DiCaprio Jennifer Connelly

Despite all its ambitious naivety, Blood Diamond turns out to be an important film. It could have been banal, but it’s not. And for that, big applause.

P.S. For the sake of review accuracy – Leo DiCaprio played remarkably well, convincingly, with his Afrikaner accent. Similarly, I could write in superlatives about Djimon Hounsou.


Rafał Oświeciński

A celluloid fetishist who doesn't despise any kind of cinema. He doesn't watch everything because it doesn't make sense, he only watches what might make sense.

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