Blood Diamonds (2006)

 

 

Director:  Edward Zwick. 

Starring:  Leonardo DiCaprio (Danny Archer), Djimon Hounsou (Solomon Vandy), Jennifer Connelly (Maddy Bowen), Kagiso Kuypers (Dia Vandy), Arnold Vosloo (Colonel Coetzee), Antony Coleman (Cordell Brown), Benu Mabhena (Jassie Vandy), Anointing Lukola (N'Yanda Vandy), David Harewood (Captain Poison), Basil Wallace (Benjamin Kapanay), Jimi Mistry (Nabil), Michael Sheen (Simmons), Marius Weyers (Van De Kaap), Stephen Collins (Ambassador Walker), Ntare Mwine (M'Ed).

civil war in Sierra Leone fueled by the money from the diamond trade

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Rhodesian Danny Archer is a former South African soldier who fought in Angola.  He now makes his living trading diamonds for weapons.  He is currently providing arms to the absolutely brutal forces of the RUF (the rebel group in Sierra Leone's civil war).  The man appears to have no conscience whatsoever.  He will do anything and use anybody to get his diamonds without regard to the consequences in terms lost lives, the number of amputees and refugees. 

Solomon Vandy is a Sierra Leone native whose village is destroyed by the RUF rebels.  Vandy is made a slave mining for diamonds, while his son is forced to become a child soldier for the rebels.  Now he wants desperately to find his family.  He discovers a huge diamond of some 100 karats and is able to bury the diamond.  Unfortunately, the rebel captain sees him bury the diamond.  Just as the captain is forcing Vandy to give him the diamond, government forces attack and Vandy is able to get away and rebury the diamond, but he is captured.

Archer, Vandy and the captain all find themselves in the same government jail.   Archer hears the captain scream that Vandy knows the location of a huge diamond and Archer just has to get his hands on it.  He immediately starts scheming to get the diamond.  He has his associate get Vandy out of jail.  He then approaches Vandy to make a deal to get the diamond.  Vandy pretends he does not know about any diamond but Archer is relentless.  In the midst of a bloody gun battle between rebel and government forces, Vandy agrees to work with him in return for Archer getting him away from all the killing. 

But getting to the diamond during a civil war is not going to be an easy task.  Archer has to use all his manipulative skills to get help from others so he can get to the diamond.  He enrolls American news journalist Maddy Bowen in his web of intrigue.  At first she does not like Archer at all because of his self-centered scheming, but she softens when Archer tells her he will provide her with facts and figures about the inner workings of the rough diamond trade.  So Maddy helps Archer and Vandy pose as news reporters so they can more freely maneuver about without being stopped and/or arrested. 

Archer gets the three of them into the camp of the private Western mercenaries hired by the government to push the rebel forces back from the capital of Freetown.  Maddy has to be evacuated along with the other journalists by air, but Archer and Vandy slip away and head for the burial site of the diamond.  They are soon being followed by government forces. 

Vandy is determined to find and free his son and this endangers the diamond mission and the lives of both Vandy and Archer.  Archer is very mad at Vandy, but Vandy just will not give up his search for his son.  Vandy and Archer run into a large rebel camp.  Archer calls in an air strike by the mercenaries scheduled for the next morning.  During the night, however, Vandy heads into the camp to find his son.  When Archer awakes in the morning he finds Vandy gone.  So he decides to sneak into the camp himself in order to provide backup for Vandy. 

Vandy does find his son, but the son denounces the father.  Vandy is just about to be killed when the air strike arrives.  In the confusion and with the assistance of Archer's AK-47, Archer, Vandy and his son survive.  But then the mercenary colonel now wants the diamond.  Archer pretends he is going along with the colonel and starts to browbeat Vandy to get the necessary information.  Archer gives Vandy a heads-up and the two are able to overpower the colonel and the few soldiers he has with him.  The colonel is killed in the fight.  Archer, Vandy and Vandy's son now continue the search for the diamond.  Vandy finds the hiding place and retrieves the diamond.  But the rebel captain and a group of survivors from the camp pounce on the three diamond hunters.  Vandy and Archer, however, are able to kill the captain and his men.  Archer, however, discovers that he has received a bullet wound on his left side. 

Now the problem is to climb to the top of the nearby hill, all the while avoiding the pursuing government troops, so they can be picked up by a small plane that will take them to safety.  Archer seriously considers killing Vandy and his son, but his wound soon becomes so painful that he cannot go on.  He gives Vandy the diamond and tells him to climb to the top of the hill to be picked up by the plane.  Archer stays to hold off the pursuing troops.  He is able to put in a call to Maddy who by now really cares for Archer.  She is very upset to hear that he is dying.  

Archer dies.  Vandy meets up with Maddy and they go to London to sell the diamond.  Vandy demands that the the diamond dealer get his entire family out of Sierra Leone and to London before he will sell the diamond.  The diamond dealer gets the family and brings them to Vandy.  Vandy winds up with 2 million British pounds and his family and Maddy gets the pictures for her news articles.

 

Good movie with very good acting by the actors performing the main roles.  At two hours and fifteen minutes, at times I thought the movie dragged.  But toward the end the action picked up again to save the day.  You really have to know something about the history of Sierra Leone to understand what is going on.  The movie provides almost no information at all about what is happening to Sierra Leone.  They could have had a little information at the start of the movie  -- a technique that is often used in movies set in definite historical periods.  But no, I had to read Wikipedia to find out what was happening in Sierra Leone at the time.   Below is a summary of the relevant information. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

The Republic of Sierra Leone lies on the west coast of Africa with Guinea on the north and Liberia on the south. 

 

1700s  --  Sierra Leone was important in the trade in slaves. 

1787  --  the capital of Freetown established as a home for slaves who had fought for Britain during the American Revolution. 

1808  --  Freetown made a British Crown Colony.

1896  --  the interior part of what became Sierra Leone is made a British Protectorate.

1961  --  the country gains its independence.

Sierra Leone started to fall apart.  The causes were government corruption; mismanagement of the diamond trade (as well as other mineral resources); the breakdown of state structures; the trafficking of arms; drugs; and crime. 

1980s  -- Charles Taylor of neighboring Liberia was the leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), which became embroiled in the civil war in Liberia.  During guerrilla training, Sierra Leone army corporal, Foday Sankoh met Charles Taylor in Libya.  Taylor agreed to help Sankoh (who helped form the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone)) in return for Sierra Leone diamonds.

1991 - 2002  --  rebel incursions create a great deal of bloodshed in the country. 

1991 (March 23)  --  the RUF rebels backed by Charles Taylor crossed from Liberia into Sierra Leone and attacked the town of Kailahun and went on to take power in much of the Eastern Province. The rebels were absolutely brutal and murderous.  They even recruited many very young boys to be soldiers.

1992 (April 29)  --  a military coup overthrows the government.  It was led by 25-year old Captain Valentine Strasser.  President Momoh went into exile in Guinea.  The National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) is established with Colonel Yahya Kanu as chairman.  Kanu assassinated and Strasser becomes the chairman. 

by 1995  --  the RUF rebels were on the verge of taking the capital, Freetown.  The NPRC responded by hiring several hundred private mercenaries from the firm Executive Outcomes.  It only took the mercenaries about a month to push the rebels back to enclaves along Sierra Leone’s borders.

1996 (January)  --  President Strasser ousted in a coup led by minister of defense, Brigadier Julius Maada Bio. 

early 1996  --  Bio hands power over to civilian President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah following elections. 

Cease-fire arranged with Sankoh and the RUF, but rebel attacks still  continued (aided by Liberia). 

1997 (May 25)  --  military officers under Major General Johnny Paul Koroma overthrew President Kabbah.  Koroma suspended the constitution and abolished political parties.  He then invited the RUF to be a part of the government.

1997 (October)  --- UN sanctions imposed.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sent in its military forces. Some 12,000 people had to flee from Freetown.

1998 (February)  --  Ecowas troops drove the rebels out of Freetown.

1998 (March 10)  --  President Kabbah put back in office.  But the rebels controlled the Northern Province, the Kono diamond field and areas along the border with Liberia.

1999 (January)  --  over 6,000 killed in fighting in the Western Area.

1999 (March)  --  Nigeria says it will withdraw by May.

1999 (July)  --  peace accord signed between Kabbah and Sankoh. The rebels get amnesty and seats in a new government.  The rebels controlled around half of the country. 

1999 (October)  --  the UN decides to send in peacekeepers. 

1999 (December)  --  the first of the 6,000 UN peacekeepers start arriving. 

2000 (May)  --  UN forces try to disarm the RUF in the Eastern Province and 500 of them wind up as hostages.  That finished the peace accord. 

Some 800 British soldiers enter Sierra Leone; start to secure Western Freetown; evacuate Europeans; and help fight the RUF.  Sankoh captured and the hostages released. 

2000 (July)  --  the UN Security Council banned the sale of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone to stop the funding of the RUF.

2000 (August)  --  new RUF leader Sam Bockarie. 

2000 (September)  --  a British raid freed British military trainers of the Sierra Leone army held as hostages. 

2001 (May)  --  UN sanctions on Liberia for its role in Sierra Leone. 

2002 (January)  --  most of the 45,000 fighters had been disarmed. 

2002 (early)  --  most of the ex-combatants disarmed. 

2002 (January 18)  --  President Kabbah declared the civil war officially over.

The UN action was their largest peacekeeping intervention of the decade.

Around 100,000 people were killed, thousands had their arms or legs hacked off by the rebels and 500,000 people were displaced to neighboring countries.

 

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