Borat isn’t the only movie hated by underdeveloped, third-world countries. Now it’s Sierra Leone complaining, about the way their country is portrayed in Blood Diamond.
The movie plays out during Sierra Leone’s 1999-2002 civil war, and makes a case for it being fueled by trade in illegal diamonds. Frankly the whole thing’s incredibly preachy, and it makes not just the country, but most of the people in it look like easily corrupted, selfish, murdering, raping savages. Sure the lead is a sympathetic native character, but almost everyone else in the film is a royal piece of shit. I’m sure the idea was to blame the white man for their behavior, but to me the movie ends up throwing equal blame right on the impoverished residents of Sierra Leone, for choosing the pursuit of riches over basic human rights like… oh… the right not to have your hands chopped off and be brainwashed into a mindless, muderous slave.
At his worst, all Borat ever said was that they Kazahk’s don’t like Jews. They got off easy.
Since the movie’s getting decent reviews, I guess that means most critics disagree with me, but the country itself seems to agree. Mohamed Swary Deen, the country’s minister of mineral resources says: “I am worried the film may be detrimental to the industry in Sierra Leone.” No kidding. Actually, I think that’s exactly what the movie is attempting. Intentionally. He adds, “People need to know that when they are seeing atrocities, the country has moved very, very far away from the pictures they see in the movie. But the consumer might be affected by this.” Well it has been 4 years. I’m sure they have flying cars and democracy by now, right?
Sierra Leone is not a rich country. Over half of the country’s income comes entirely from foreign aid. Meanwhile, they’re swimming in precious gems. If they’re ever going to climb out of the pit of despair, they’ll do it selling diamonds to Americans. Meanwhile, Blood Diamond is doing its damnedest to talk us out of buying them.
It’s hard for me or you to know how accurate Blood Diamond is, since almost none of us have ever been there, nor will be since a vacation in West Africa (we all assume) is probably a good way to end up dead. But apparently the movie wasn’t even filmed there, so the people making it really don’t know either. “I wish at least it had been filmed here,” says Cecil Williams, general manager of the Sierra Leone National Tourist Board. “We have a unique landscape, and the presence of a large film crew would have provided economic benefits,” he insists.
Frankly, I think they may have a good case here. Borat’s bashing of Kazakhstan was really harmless. He wasn’t attacking their economy or industry and his jokes about their culture aren’t the kind of thing that will really damage the country. But Blood Diamond legitimately has the chance to seriously harm a developing country’s economy. It’s one thing to make fun of someone, it’s another to make an entire film dedicated to vilifying the only export of an impoverished country with the clear aim of discouraging Americans from doing business with them. Sorry, that just doesn’t seem right to me.