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Blood Diamond Opens This Month

Spotlight
By Rob Bates, Senior Editor
This story appears in the December 2006 issue of JCK magazine
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The movie that’s been the talk of the trade—Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio—premieres this month, a week earlier than expected.

The film was originally set to premiere late in the month. But Warner Bros., which did not return repeated phone calls from JCK, has moved its release date to Dec. 8 because of what it calls “strong reactions from early screening audiences.”

The film, which stars DiCaprio as a diamond dealer during Sierra Leone’s civil war in the 1990s, has stoked fears that it will depress diamond sales this holiday.

De Beers, working through the World Diamond Council, has launched a $15 million “education” campaign to counter the film’s effects. WDC has set up a Web site, diamondfacts.org, to educate consumers about the positive side of the diamond industry as well as industry efforts to eradicate conflict diamonds.

There is much speculation about how damaging the film will be. The industry wanted director Edward Zwick to add an “end card” noting the work the Kimberley Process has done to eliminate conflict stones.

But Zwick told National Public Radio, “My reaction is, I try not to take notes from the studio. And I really didn’t think it was proper to take them from an industry lobby.”

He added that he wanted to create a consumer “consciousness.”

“A purchase of a diamond just has to be an informed purchase,” he said. “I think after seeing this movie, people will feel it incumbent upon themselves to ask for a warranty, so as to guarantee the diamond they’re buying is not from a conflict zone.”

So far the trade’s efforts seem to have received a mixed response, meeting with cynicism and sometimes hostility in news reports. (For instance, the diamondfacts.org site has spawned a spoof site, realdiamondfacts.org.) It also comes at a time when a United Nations report notes that conflict diamonds mined by rebels in the Ivory Coast are still entering the mainstream of the diamond industry.

Sally Morrison, director of the Diamond Information Center, which is helping to spearhead the trade’s effort, said the industry’s campaign was a “long-term effort.” She noted that the trade has not been as proactive as it should be in getting out the good diamonds for Africa.

“Perhaps this movie is providing us with the excuse to do the education,” she says. “I suspect five years from now the net effect of this will be a positive thing. It’s painful—but change is always painful.”

Morrison, who used to do publicity for Miramax, added that the trade should not take a “conspiracy attitude” toward the film.

“Warner Bros. is not out to damage the diamond business,” she said. “The movie is not out to get us. It’s out to make a profit.”

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