Between Blood Diamonds and Blood Diamond

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

I believe that the presence or absence of conflict is a vital element in the determination of the relevance or irrelevance of a work of art. Conflict derives expression from the struggles that take place, with the kind of introspective battles that occur in the mind before we set out in the morning of each day; There are struggles between man and man: notice that over the years there has been that eternal battle between the have-nots against those who are the haves, effectively captured in some literary classics like Orwell’s Animal Farm; man has sought to capture his environment and gain mastery of an unpredictable universe that inexorably humiliates the efforts he puts in place to tame it: notice again that despite the fact that man has conquered space he still has little or no control over the kind of floods that had katrinamic and tsunamic impacts both in the US and in South East Asia; in most cases too, man often has an axe to grind with certain psychic forces. My argument in this wise has been that the relationship that subsists between man and psychic forces often is an unfair one.

Perhaps the first difference in the articulation of conflict relevant to the consequences of diamonds gotten from geopolitical zones of the world embroiled in civil strife is in the titles of both movies: Sam Kargbo’s movie is Blood Diamonds, which focuses on the antecedents of the cause of that bloody war in Sierra Leone; the movie has it that Fodey Sankoh with a band of renegades were in league with Liberia’s former President Charles Taylor to retrieve a cache of diamonds in Sierra Leone worth $3billion. Consequently, they engaged the services of certain soldiers of fortune to retrieve the diamonds from Sierra Leone. But the Sierra Leonean government, just out of the throes of war also needed that cache of diamonds most probably to raise the money to rebuild a country devastated by an internecine conflict. With all of this interest focused on these diamonds, the stage was inevitably set for a climax whose denouement was not as particularly tidy as that of Blood Diamond. If the title Blood Diamond is derivable from the focus on just one particular stone and that the whole of the plot of the movie centres around that diamond, then both producers it should be said to their credit, got it right. Blood Diamond is a story wound around three central characters, each with a totally different kind of motivation associated with the diamond: the soldier of fortune needed it for personal aggrandizement; the journalist was interested in the diamonds of blood because she wanted a story but found herself caught in an intricate web spun around the soldier of fortune and a father who was looking for a son lost to the internecine warfare but found the contentious stone.

Indeed all of this seemingly backs up E.M. Forster’s position in Aspects of the Novel; that all great plots, all great movies fail to stimulate and engage our intellect and memory if there is no causality. Causality to Forster is that rationalization of events that propels a course of action. To address the question on causality concerning both movies, we ask this question first: why is it that Europe and the Americas have always resorted to the very same pristine methodology in stealing whatever it is they need in and from Africa? Notice that that same methodology was applied with the Transatlantic Trade in slaves. To get African people to fight each other and generate a situation of internecine wars that would produce prisoners of war-turned slaves, they induced the local chiefs with all such commodities as mirrors, guns, gunpowder and artifacts that have to direct or indirect relevance to the benefit of the African. So, if we go back to the reason why the African stage has been a theatre of war in the last millennium or so, it may not be too difficult to determine that it is because the African too is so poverty-stricken and so bereft of the constructive ideas that should develop his continent that he is so often exploited by greedy foreign opportunists and is often at their mercy. Take for instance a Sierra Leonean Independence Day celebration that I attended sometime ago here in Lagos Nigeria. As panacea to the incidence of poverty that is the lot of both country and citizen of Sierra Leone, the august speaker strongly pontificated that Sierra Leoneans should sharpen their cutlasses and farm implements and go to work on the farms so as to be able to feed themselves. For me, I thought this was not a responsible thing to say. I thought that instead of asking a well endowed a people as Sierra Leoneans to surrender their lives to the soil as mere farmers, why not encourage the government to use proceeds from the source of the conflict of war to invest massively in the building of schools, the training of teachers and the wooing of her citizens in the Diaspora to make an input?

I thought that the themes of poverty, greed, exploitation and some measure of international debauchery all come full circle in both movies. But it was Blood Diamonds that first drew attention to the issues that Blood Diamond effectively addressed. Writing in Nigerian Movies: Adaptation or Echolalia? published 04/20/2006 on nigeriansinamerica, I had said something in this wise: ‘Blood Diamonds generated sustained international interest in the West African sub-region especially from the topical issues it addressed… (there were) international mercenaries who were also interested in exercising a measure of control on that country’s diamond mines; and the ensuing war left Sierra Leone a troubadoured and plundered land…the war left a permanent scar on the psycheof the international community.’ Apart from drawing more attention to this scar, Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond showed the response of an international community whose conscience seemed to have been pricked by the devastation and destruction that the greed of a few exact on the destinies of a traumatized people. It almost seemed to remind us of the kind of pressure that Granville Sharpe, Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce put to bear on the conscience of the international community on the evils of the trade in human beings. I would recommend to the producers of Blood Diamond to look at Blood Diamonds and see if both movies could be serialized as Parts 1 and 2. What I mean is that some of the unavoidable loose ends in Blood Diamonds could continue from where Blood Diamond took off from. Technically, it is this kind of collaborative effort from the West and Africa that a better symbiotic relationship between both can be actualized.

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1 comment March 4, 2007 - 11:48 am

When I wrote and made Blood Diamonds in Sierra Leone I had the hope that it would be a catalyst for further effeorts on the issue.After the Premier in Freetown,I had an audience with President Kabba who expressed the desire for me to do a sequell to Blood Diamonds.He discussed areas that could have given a wider angle to the role of diamonds in Sierra Leone.I still have the mind of revisiting the theme but I must say that I am happy that some other producers have taken off from where I stopped and I am certain that there would be more exciting works on the role of diamonds in the conflict that ruined Sierra Leone and made it one of the poorest countries on earth.I am just hoping that producers would take a look at the Nigerian petroleum and scrutinise its role in shaping Nigeria socio politically.Thank you Bob.Your analyses are apt and encouraging.


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