Monday, October 09, 2006

Blood Diamond

From the Los Angeles Times comes word of a new film, Blood Diamond (link opens with soundtrack) starring Leo DiCaprio that's making diamond execs mighty uncomfortable. The film is set during Sierra Leone's civil war and depicts both the issue of "conflict diamonds" used to finance the war and the devastation to the country including the exploitation of children as soldiers-- a topic we have been exploring in our reading this month. The film's website already has a link to Amnesty's conflict diamond action page, as well as to Global Witness' campaign site. The entire article is worth a read, but we note that Artists for Amnesty is gearing up for the film's launch,
...Bonnie Abaunza, Los Angeles-based director of Amnesty International's celebrity outreach program, points out, the media is covering so-called "conflict diamonds" more now than when Sierra Leone's bloody civil wars were actually taking place. "It's amazing that all this attention is on conflict diamonds when no one has even seen the film yet," she said. Amnesty International is steadily recruiting celebrities in an effort to use the film to focus attention on human rights questions that still surround the diamond industry. For example, Abaunza said, she recently screened "Blood Diamond" for hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons, who works with De Beers on his line of diamond jewelry.

As early as last fall, De Beers head Jonathan Oppenheimer expressed concern that the film might hurt Christmas and Valentine's Day sales. He asked the filmmakers to add a disclaimer stating that the events in the film are fictional and in the past and that, thanks to the Kimberley Process, which the industry put in place to document where diamonds come from, conflict diamonds end up on the market only very rarely. The filmmakers declined to add it

In September, the diamond industry began its multimillion-dollar campaign to "educate consumers" about the Kimberley Process. But to some observers, the very scale of the costly campaign has raised suspicion. "The multimillion-dollar PR campaigns, full-page ads in major newspapers, outreaches to consumers and journalists with their new website.... Oddly, none of this is working in their favor. Everyone is asking, 'Why are they doing this? What do they fear?' " Abaunza said.

The Kimberley Process, which the diamond industry insists has reduced blood diamonds to 1% of stones sold, has been criticized by Amnesty International and Global Witness for being ineffective and corrupted. Amy O'Meara of Amnesty International's Business and Human Rights Program described it as fundamentally flawed. "There is no effective way to track the stones from point of origin to point of sale," she said. "They need an auditable tracking system. The diamond industry is asking us to take them at their word. That's not good enough. There is so much money at stake and so many hands in the pot. It's easy for the system to be corrupted."
And a little heads up about events coming our way,
The issues surrounding conflict diamonds will get strong support from the film's stars at the Dec. 12 premiere, which may involve Amnesty International and Global Witness. "We're still in the process of working out details," a company spokesperson said. "But it's safe to say that they will be involved in some way." Amnesty and Global Witness will also co-host an event in Los Angeles on Nov. 14, where they expect representatives from the Diamond Council as well. And AIUSA will be hosting special screenings on 10 campuses around the country to mobilize youthful activists.

The film has no apparent relationship to Greg Campbell's Blood Diamonds, the highly informative Rights Readers nonfiction selection on the same subject, but I think its safe to say that Loyal Readers will be throwing a little support to the box office for this film in the near future.

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