Blood Diamond is a dramatic, action-packed Warner Brothers production from 2006 about the mining of conflict or ‘blood’ diamonds in Sierra Leone - not recommended for the feint hearted. Perhaps unsurprisingly the film incorporates some typical blockbuster cliches; the surprising U-turn in attitude by one of the key characters from diamond smuggler to empathetic hero and the struggle for justice, which neatly prevails. Despite the story line itself being fictional, the film does delve into some uncomfortable realities...
Blood diamonds are those that have been mined and sold abroad to finance conflict in the region they are obtained from. The film focuses in on the trade that has been taking place in Sierra Leone, West Africa responsible for funding the civil war the country has endured. The idea of blood diamonds were first brought to public attention by Global Witness back in 1998, when they published the report 'A Rough Trade' about conflict diamonds in Angola. This sparked an international outcry that led to the development of the Kimberley Process, an international certification scheme designed to stop the trade in blood diamonds.
The film places an emphasis on the child soldiers who are taken away from their homes and recruited to join the fighting. Once recruited, they are taught to fear their leaders through violence and intimidation. These children are then armed and sent out to fight and kill. It depicts the distressing way in which these youngsters have their childhoods stripped away from them as well as giving some idea of the emotional torment they suffer as a result of their experiences having been thrust into such extreme and dangerous circumstances.
I found this a hugely moving story which has broadened my understanding as to the cost others are paying in order for us maintain the level of luxury we have become accustomed to.
Blood Diamond is entertaining as a film, and challenging as a message. I encourage you to share it with friends, to show them how our lives connect to those of some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable.
As consumers, being aware of how and where the products we buy are sourced and making decisions with these factors in mind will help prevent this kind of exploitation continuing in the future.
A documentary-style film by Hubert Sauper, Darwin’s Nightmare examines the subject of globalization and what this can mean for poorer societies across Africa. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2006, this film offers an account of a very real and inconvenient truth about Western Tanzania’s imports and exports.
The film begins by presenting the devastating account of how a large fish called the Nile Perch was introduced into Lake Victoria (the source of the river Nile, known to many as the birthplace of humankind) only to consume the entirety of the smaller species of fish native to the lake. Despite the ecological damage inflicted by the Nile Perch, it’s significant demand from the European market has led this issue to be overlooked.
In order to fulfill this large demand, enormous cargo planes from abroad (often Eastern Europe) fly in and out of Tanzania, exporting up to 55 tons of fish per day for consumption in wealthier countries. Aside from the obvious commercial activity, locals have been unable to fish due to the Nile Perch wiping out all else in the lake. This lack of fish has left residents with limited food for themselves and their families with no choice but to scrounge for festering, discarded carcasses that the planes won’t take - having been bypassed on the food chain.
The second and perhaps even more significant finding from the documentary is the exposure of other, more sinister uses for the planes. There is evidence to suggest the ‘empty’ planes entering the country are actually filled with weapons and ammunition to support civil war in Africa. The documentary even hints that the fish trade may simply be a useful smokescreen to mask the real, politically based motive for the flights.
This documentary has been an eye-opener and if nothing else, can educate us further as to some of the complex issues countries like Tanzania face.
In the second of our monthly film reviews, Rosie Sanger looks at the film Human Trafficking.
Human Trafficking is an eye opening two-part mini series exploring the dark and tragically vast world of sex trafficking. The series starring Mira Sorvino, Donald Sutherland and Robert Carlyle focuses predominantly on the slavery of women and girls in various situations, across continents.
The series educates the viewer as to the huge and very real demand for sex and the lengths traffickers will go to meet this demand, seemingly at any cost. It also illustrates the ignorance and vulnerability of so many women and girls who get caught up in this industry. These young women are subjected to disturbing conditions and treated appaulingly, it doesn’t make for easy watching and the content is of an adult nature so bare this in mind.
One quote that stood out for me in particular while watching was: ‘An ounce of cocaine, wholesale 1200 dollars but you can only sell it once, a woman or a child 50-100 dollars but you can sell them each day every day over and over and over again. The mark up is immesurable.’
There are obviously limits as to how much content can be captured in one film or series alone as there are certainly other types of human trafficking that exist today that were not explored. This story is also limited as to the insight it can provide us with about the full extent of sexual slavery in the developing world as its content references the exploitation of other vulnerable people including Western tourists and Eastern Europeans striving for a better life. It does however provide a powerful message that where there is economic hardship, exploitation thrives.
It seems that if we can decrease economic hardship we can gradually reduce sexual slavery. There are many NGO’s working to prevent human trafficking in regions (particularly across Asia) where it is particularly prevalent. These include: ECPAT International, STOP and Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.
Please do get involved and leave us your comments and suggestions for other films we should review.
The GPP are introducing a monthly film review on our blog to look at some of the stories that tell us more about issues linked to global poverty. We hope you’ll get involved and leave your own comments and opinions on the films we look at, as well as suggesting any that you think are worthy of a review. To all of you who have already given recommendations, thank you - these are on the viewing list!
Black Gold is a documentary-style film produced and directed by Marc and Nick Francis about the exploitation of farmers in developing countries. It highlights the injustice suffered by Ethiopians farming coffee beans for the Western world’s love of coffee. This documentary challenges both the price farmers receive for their beans as well as the distribution channels that are involved in the process. It also gives an understanding of how cooperatives can make a difference to the lives of the growers and the importance of consumers buying fairtrade products.
It is widely reported that large corporations often make huge profit margins on consumer goods whilst the producers themselves struggle to make a living, yet I was still stunned by some of the statistics mentioned. For instance, the amount of money an Ethiopian farmer can expect to receive for a kilo of coffee beans is around $0.23, the equivalent of buying just two cups of coffee in that region. This is despite the kilo finally ending up worth $230 when the coffee is sold on to Western consumers!
What I like about this film is that being a documentary, it’s likely to be very accurate in content. It offers many statistics to put the issues into context and shows the positive steps that are being taken to help improve the situation for these vulnerable people farming to make an honest living. The hope is that through the cooperatives they will earn a fairer price and be able to send more of their children to school and build their communities.
So what have I taken away from this? Coffee may be gold to some, but to the farmers of Ethiopia growing it, it’s more like fools gold. As well as remembering to buy fairtrade products, I also feel inspired to find out if the coffee shop chains I visit source fairtrade coffee and if not, what do I plan to do about it...