I finally got a chance to watch Blood Diamond last night. Wow! What a powerful flick. While it had all the intrigues of a standard Hollywood flick, it also had so much more.
When I know a movie is based on a true story, I generally pay a bit more attention. It will often go through my mind while I’m watching – that Wow! This actually took place. I found this movie a bit more challenging though because as I was watching it, I realized Wow! This is actually the status quo in parts of Africa.
Of course Hollywood took its liberties. Leonardo was there as the leading man and once you got past his horrific rendition of a South African accent, he did pretty well (I’m not at all biased b/c I am not generally a huge fan of his). Other big cast names include Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator), Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy) etc etc. The story is action packed and tense and of course, Leo does the right thing in the end and justice is served. (This story provides a lead in to the actual implementation of the Kimberley Process established in 2003). But of course for people actually living in the midst of the African conflict, their story doesn’t wrap up nearly so tidy.
I found there to be many memorable moments in the movie, but I think one of the more powerful ones arose as Leo, Jenn & Djimon’s characters get out of a helicopter close to a refugee camp. As they are looking across at the incredible numbers of makeshift tents & shelters, Jennifer’s character says “Africa’s second largest refugee camp – This is what 1 million displaced people look like. A population the size of a country, left homeless because of this war”
A moment later she says “At home you might see something about it on the news, for maybe a minute – somewhere in between sports and the weather”.
I thought that was a powerful thing to say. It is so true. In North America, there is so much going on in the news, world issues such as this blend into the programmed mind as just another part of a world with problems. We sit in front of the tube; eat our evening snack & surf channels – catching bits of the news, but nothing practical enough to really allow us to consider the scope of what we are seeing.
Right around the time we moved to Alberta, we caught a news broadcast expressing concern in Calgary about the lack of concern people had for other people in crisis. This came up as there had been a number of major traffic incidents along some major roadways there and while people were sitting in or lying injured beside their vehicles, traffic was continuing on as always. No one stopped to help. No one called emergency numbers. People have died as other people just drive by, continuing about their business. The question came up “How can people just ignore these individuals in crisis?”
I don’t think too many people would intentionally pass by if they knew the real situation. Would any of us not offer to help if we knew someone was in trouble? Could we turn a blind eye if we knew of a crisis nearby in our neighbourhood?
The world is a pretty big place. Africa is quite far away. Many people have said it is not our battle, therefore, why do we care? They are neatly contained on their own continent, far across the ocean. But in a global sense, are they not our neighbours too?
I remember years ago, when that little girl – Jessica, fell down the well. People prayed, people rallied, people sent letters & cards and a nation stayed glued to the news until word came that she was safe. Again, miners in Chili garnered the same attention. Innately, people care. But sociologists and humanitarians agree that people have a more difficult time giving energy to caring about something that hasn’t been given a face and made real. In a sense, the media holds the power to pick & choose what we will care about. It is more touching to put a face to the name of Jessica – the sweet baby in a well. 1 million displaced people are just too great to comprehend.
Hollywood worked to make this story real by having us follow 1 family. Torn apart by the war, this family faces grief most of us thankfully will never have to know. This family all managed to survive and was even reunited at the end. Hollywood likes to do that.
If I can focus on 1 family in the midst of those millions, I will think on C. My Congolese sister I have been paired with through Women for Women international. I still have not heard back from her, but I wonder about her. This movie brought further insight into what her reality may be. She is just 1 of the millions of affected peoples. But if a million is too overwhelming, then please just focus on 1.