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11 December 2006

Blood Diamond : Is this Flic a 2nd Fiddle to The Constant Gardener?

KPBS Movie reviews » Blog Archive » Blood Diamond:

"Zwick is not content to just tell a good action story or to focus tightly on one aspect of a complex problem — he wants to explore everything. He shows how the guerrillas coerce children into fighting, how diamonds fund the violence, how the west ignores the problems in Africa, the formation of massive refugee camps, and so on. Yet even though the film covers a lot of ground, it never gets to the complexity of the problems. It’s broad in scope but not deep."

Edward Zwick directs Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou.

Reviewer Beth Accomando goes on in the filn review to add negative comparisons of Blood Diamond to the film version of the John ie Carre novel The Constant Gardener (TCG. Toronto, Penguin, 2001 ISBN: 0 14 10.0169 0; Blood Diamond which is not a novel adapted for screen, opened 08 Dec in US cities / TCG ran last year and is available in DVD format for rental).

A newcomer to blogging, S Nathan Lee on his blog Gin House Blues just reviewed both flics and critiques both for offering cartharsis as relief for 'our' White Colonialist Guilt (in a word). Blogaulaire just commented at Gin House Blues to back up Lee's critique because all of these Africa-themed novels and films (including Gil Courtemanche's Sunday by the Pool in Kigali and Hollywood's Hotel Rwanda )arrive on cinema screens at least 10 or more years after the disasters that they describe. This reminds me of Vietnam War films with the obvious twist involved for Africa.

I am nearly certain that the reviewers will go Political Light (and PC) on Blood Diamond and other upcoming additions to this 'bloody Africa' genre while ignoring the background for the stories.

Any reviewer has a right to slight the political realities because this is 'just entertainment' after all. Does the obligatory love story enthral viewers or does it fall flat on the rear-end? Rear ends are as important to this genre as are the tie-ins to corporate crime. And some semi-serious periodicals running Arts & Entertainment reviews keep that department very far away from the World News and International Politics pages -- as all advertorials should be placed apart.

Where reviewers should not fall down, however, is in the zone of film edits. Ex: here in Canada we made much of le Carre coming to Manitoba and Saskatchewan to research background for the his TCG book. Then the director set up what were regarded as key scenes in the Canadian locales. Reviewers of the filmmaking phase (as they often do for local connections that boost local economies) told us that the reason the fictionalised version featured Canada was related to a real-life Canadian medical researcher who had to fight tooth and nail for the right to publish her clinical trial results while the pharma company that contracted the research fought even harder to prevent this disclosure of negative results.

Well and good. Those who had followed the news item about medical publlshing and big pharma were delighted that a blockbuster film might bring down a bad blockbuster drug.

When I watched The Constant Gardener on DVD there were no scenes from Canada. There were credits for the filming in Canada, however. And in the feature section of the DVD those scenes were shown. They were cut from the video (and presumably from the film) version.

Did reviewers at the time TCG came out make the cutting-room floor connection? That the filmed murder of a drug investigator - the hired hit that targets a faculty appointed physician standing up to pharma - was cut frrom the final version of the film? Was the dramatic action from the Canada shoot too dramatically documentary to be rolled out with the romantic and less focussed crimes set in Africa?

I will be checking out some of those older reviews and awaiting a chance to view Blood Diamond in a theatre. Prediction: in 6 to 8 years we will have a book-film rise to the top of the entertainment pile that deals with the crimes and career of US educated US ex-con and ousted Liberia's tyrant Charles Taylor. But even after the delay, the book-film I predict will leave Pat Robertson's evangelic bankroll for phony gold mines to prop up Taylor - all the bits tying African exploitation to the big lobby of Congress in the States - the focus on North Americans in other words will be left unused on the cutting-room floor.

GRIPPING (sic) CONFLICT: Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, and Leonardo DiCaprio star in 'Blood Diamond.'

The last word in this post is reserved for the film reviewer from KPBS, Beth Accomando:

Films from Africa, made by African filmmakers are few and of those few only a rare one ever makes it to American theater screens. All the films we’ve seen recently of Africa — Blood Diamond, Catch a Fire, The Constant Gardener, Biko, The Last King of Scotland, Tears of the Sun—are all very western in terms of their narrative structure. Films from Africa by such directors as Sembene Ousmane or Djibril Diop Mambety have a very different storytelling quality to them that stems from an oral storytelling tradition. It would be nice to see more films from a genuinely African perspective make it to American theaters.

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