Digital Participation: Blood Diamond
For my digital participation I watched the film Blood Diamond, which was directed by Edward Zwick, who is known for directing films based on global racial and social issues such as Glory and The Last Samurai. My interest with Blood Diamond, however, revolves around the idea of the “single story.” I was curious how successful an American director could be at presenting a story about one of Africa’s most brutal civil wars without playing into the single story.
For those who don’t know, the civil war I’m referring to is Sierra Leone’s which lasted from 1996 until 2001, as portrayed in The Memory of Love. The story follows Solomon Vandy, a fisherman enslaved to dig for diamonds all day in order to help fund the rebel faction Revolutionary United Front. After finding a golf ball-sized diamond, Vandy is sent to jail in Freetown where he meets Danny Archer, a white rodesian smuggles who was jailed for trying to smuggle diamonds into Liberia. Meanwhile, while Solomon is in jail his son is abducted in Freetown and forced to become a child soldier. Archer, who finds out Solomon knows where this massive diamond is located, pledges to Solomon that he will help him relocate his family if he brings him to the diamond.
This movie quite obviously has the “single story” theory written all over it. There is a horribly violent civil war. There are child soldiers. There is a humble working man main character who is ripped away from his family and forced to succumb to the will of rebel warlords. There is a government bent on indiscriminant violence that draws no distinction between civilians and hostile rebels. There is a white “savior” that blurs the line between good and evil, emerging within the storyline from his selfish wrongdoing beginnings to a man who offers up his diamond to Solomon while lying on his death bed.
So yes, this is the single story. But I have no problem with the single story if it is true. The truth is that this was the reality of the civil war in Sierra Leone, one of Africa’s most brutal wars in the last century. The incorrect response to criticizing the single story is to render it useless, as if it bares no resemblance to reality and contains no lingering lesson. I applaud Zwick’s effort, as long as it was a portrayal of the truth.