Sporting manly facial hair, Leonardo DiCaprio tackles the serious issue of 'conflict diamonds' in Blood Diamond. Critics were a little dubious about the film's earnest pretensions, but did find it a "gripping" thriller, with sterling performances all round. DiCaprio and co-star Djimon Hounsou both received Oscar nods, but despite all the positive buzz, the film still only recouped half its $100m budget.
Blood, Sweat And Tears
Interviewed on location in South Africa, DiCaprio explains his interest in the project in Becoming Archer. Apart from talking about the general exploitation of Third World countries by the West (emphasising that "diamonds are a symbol of the resources in Africa"), he says that he was drawn to the complexity of Archer. On the surface, an "unsympathetic" character, DiCaprio relished the chance to strip back the layers. Between takes, he also reflects on the time he spent in Africa leading up to the shoot, talking to mercenaries and taking part in weapons training.
Journalism On The Front Line throws the spotlight on co-star Jennifer Connelly, and her efforts to understand the women who put their lives at risk to report on the conflict in Sierra Leone. Once again, the nobility of their mission is brushed aside as Connelly was more "intrigued" by their thrill-seeking nature. Describing the women as "fierce", Zwick talks more in his commentary about the people and places he came across during an intensive period of research. He insists that the experience "marked all of us..."
Recreating the siege of Freetown in 1999, when thousands of innocents were killed, was the biggest challenge faced by Zwick. It's the only in-depth look we get at the actual making of the film, but it does show off the Hollywood machine in full throttle. Streets are built and blown up, and before that, extras are put through five weeks of military training. Zwick spent months planning the logistics and carefully storyboarding each beat of the action. Footage from the set lives up to Zwick's ultimate intention to "create something chaotic". In fact DiCaprio admits that "we really had some, uh, ...intense moments filming this sequence."
The Jewel In The Crown
Perhaps the most compelling feature of this Special Edition package is a 50-minute documentary by African journalist Sorious Samura. He investigates the corruption and bloodshed that surrounds the diamond trade, from the mines where they are sourced to the jeweller's shop window. Along the way he talks to a couple of former boy soldiers who were forced (under conditions of war) to commit violence against impoverished miners who were tempted to sneak a stone in their pockets. One of the boys breaks down in tears as he recalls killing a man "for the sake of a diamond". Samura also investigates the life of a diamond miner, and the diamond dealers who grease the wheels of this nefarious system.
A music video by Nas rounds off the extras menu. There could've been deeper exploration into the challenges of filming in Africa, but as it is, this Special Edition DVD efficiently and very powerfully puts the film into context. For the people who gave the film a miss in cinemas, because it seemed 'too worthy', think again.
DISC TWO (ONLY AVAILABLE AS PART OF SPECIAL EDITION)
Blood Diamond: Special Edition DVD is released on Monday 18th June 2007.