Blood Diamond, Hollywood and Sierre Leone, by Lansana Gberie
For brief, fleeting moments almost every decade now, the rich world tends to embrace Africa – a continent badly wracked by poverty, wars and related crises – as pet project. Africa as the object of the fantasies of the West is an old pathology, and it is not limited to the entertainment industry – though
Hollywood has represented its most crude and egregious form in recent decades. Stalked by the disaster of Iraq, British Prime Minister Tony Blair (who, to be fair, cannot by any means be accused of prior indifference to Africa) embraced the old continent with renewed vigour, in 2005 producing “Our Common Interest,” a sprawling, well-meaning document which sets out detailed plans for wiping out African poverty and related crises. Less than two years later, the document is all but forgotten. Africa, however, has not been, at least by
Hollywood. By the end of 2006, Africa became “suddenly hot” to the entertainment industry, to use the appropriately frivolous words of the New York Times. Before the end of the year, the continent somehow managed to attract the interest of big name stars – and therefore big media – beginning with Bono, then Clay Aiken, Jessica Simpson, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, George Clooney and a few others. Even Madonna, not usually associated with high-mindedness, was “suddenly casting an ice-blue eye toward Africa” (this is from the New York Times), that year famously adopting a child from Malawi. Ed Zwick and Leonardo di Caprio and Jennifer Connelly took the pathology a step higher (or lower), coming from nowhere and seeming to adopt a whole country, Sierra Leone. Their ‘Blood Diamond’, a film that purports to recreate the horrors that befell Sierra Leone mainly in 1990s, came out just before Christmas. The producers of this film, which makes the word narcissism inadequate, claims that the intention is to save Sierra Leone (and countries like it) from the predatory degradation of diamond hunters and their wretched native allies who pressgang children into their militia and commit unspeakable atrocities.
There was a time, a few years back, when films like ‘Blood Diamond’ would have been most welcome, not least by the long-suffering people of Sierra Leone….