Edward Zwick’s ‘Blood Diamond’ is a riveting 2006 action thriller movie that follows a fisherman and a diamond smuggler on the trail of a priceless diamond. Set in war-torn Sierra Leone, the story centers around fisherman Solomon Vandy’s (Djimon Hounsou) search for his son, who has been recruited into the child soldier militia. At the same time, smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) tries to use the opportunity to get his hands on the priceless stone unearthed by Solomon.
The film paints a stark portrayal of where many of the world’s diamonds come from and depicts gut-wrenching atrocities against the people of such countries. Danny and Solomon’s journey forms the remarkable central narrative of a film that seems to depict some harsh realities that feel true to life. But is ‘Blood Diamond’ really based on actual events, or is it a fictional tale? Let’s take a look for ourselves.
Is Blood Diamond a True Story?
Yes, ‘Blood Diamond’ is partially based on a true story. The film is adapted from a screenplay by Charles Leavitt and a story by him and C. Gaby Mitchell. Though the story revolves around fictional characters, the film’s backdrop broadly attempts to depict Sierra Leone during the Civil War. The brutal village attacks, taking of hostages, and putting them into forced labor to fund the war are all loosely inspired by the events that occurred in the war-torn African nation between 1991 and 2002.
As per director Edward Zwick, the story evolved from an “Indian Jones-ish adventure script” about two men that find a priceless diamond in Botswana. The narrative was then modified to be set in Sierra Leone by more writers, who introduced the fisherman’s character, Solomon Vandy. It was only after this that Zwick made his own modifications to the script and introduced the aspect of Solomon’s search for his son. Most notably, this also introduced the element of child soldiers in the story, which forms a chilling part of the final film.
Zwick made the theme of child soldiers central to the movie by making Solomon’s son one of them. This is one of the aspects in which the filmmaker carried out deep research and brought unprecedented authenticity to the film. To do so, Zwick traveled to Africa to meet former child soldiers and understand their experiences. Apart from forming the emotional core of his film, he stated how conflict diamonds in Africa were inseparable from the issue of child soldiers.
In fact, one of the consultants on the film went so far as to hope that their depiction in ‘Blood Diamond’ would help former child soldiers be better understood, supporting their reintegration into society. Understanding what child soldiers went through would help people forgive them and possibly move on from the tragic war. Just like the child soldiers, the fictional character of Danny Archer also benefits from a well-thought-out backstory that makes him feel quite authentic.
Originally slated to be American, the character was modified to be a South African smuggler who has grown up through the apartheid and works as a private contractor for large diamond conglomerates. Zwick has said that his film is about the responsibilities of consumer society and understanding how one’s purchases have repercussions elsewhere. However, the original script was not initially wrapped in the weighty subject matter the movie covers.
Through ‘Blood Diamond,’ the director attempts to faithfully depict the situation surrounding illicit diamonds in Sierra Leone using a masterfully written and well-researched fictional narrative. Moreover, the film is set in the war’s later years and closes on a scene inspired by a real conference held in 2000 in Kimberley, South Africa. The conference led to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to stem the flow of conflict diamonds.
Ultimately, ‘Blood Diamond’ is an almost entirely fictional story set against a chillingly realistic backdrop. The film remains faithful to the actual timeline of the war and places its closing scenes amidst a conference that actually occurred. Furthermore, the phenomenon of child soldiers and other atrocities of war are depicted with relative authenticity, given the first-hand information collected by the filmmakers from former child soldiers.
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