LOS ANGELES – Just hours after being named one of the year's 10-best films by the National Board of Review in New York, the new political drama "Blood Diamond" got the red-carpet treatment in Hollywood. And there was much serious talk among the glittering attendees.
Stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou walked the press gauntlet at the film's world premiere, promoting both the movie and its message. Set in 1999 war-ravaged Sierra Leone, the movie portrays the brutality of forced-labor diamond mining camps that generate millions of dollars used to finance the arms trade and help perpetuate African bloodshed.
"It's so rare that a film of this scale or magnitude, that is highly entertaining to an audience, also says something very pertinent to the world we live in, and is very specific about how we live in modern society," DiCaprio told AP Television.
DiCaprio plays a soldier of fortune who forces a mining-camp prisoner (Hounsou) to swap an invaluable giant pink diamond for the safety of his family. "The diamond, to me, in this film, is very reflective of corporate responsibility and how these corporations need to be more aware of how they affect places as underprivileged as Sierra Leone and how it causes unrest," the actor explained.
Actor-activist Jane Fonda arrived with longtime friend Paula Weinstein, one of the movie's producers. "It just happens that my friend's movie is coming out and my son is getting engaged, so I have to deal with diamonds," Fonda said. "And we were calling Paula to say, `O.K. What is it we're supposed to be asking for?' And, you know," Fonda continued, pointing to her own diamond earrings, "they're all conflict-free."
Wednesday afternoon, the National Board of Review also named Hounsou as the year's best supporting actor. "I was a little bit speechless," said Hounsou ("Amistad"). "You hear that and you want to jump. And, and the same time you want to pace yourself and control that emotion. It was extremely welcome and overwhelming to hear that."
Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly ("A Beautiful Mind") portrays an American journalist who begs DiCaprio's smuggler to go on the record with her about the diamond trade. "She is the kind of girl who absolutely will be found drunk on the dance floor," Connelly said. "But, then, the next day, she's really serious and committed to her very serious work."
Is their much resemblance between the character and the actress, a mother of two? "I wish," Connelly responded, smiling.
Earlier this week, a State Department official expressed concern the film would inspire viewers to boycott diamonds and, ultimately, harm Africa's legitimate diamond industry. At a briefing Tuesday, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Paul Simons said that while it was true that 4 to 15 percent of the world's supply of rough diamonds once came from conflict areas, controls have been in place since 2002 that have reduced the supply to "significantly less than 1 percent."
"No one is saying to boycott diamonds," Connelly responded. "But (buyers) can be proactive and go to their jewelers and say, `Can you show me a certificate? Can you give me a verifiable warranty that these diamonds are conflict-free?' That could help."