In 2006, a movie by the name of “Blood diamond” was released which gained praise for telling a compelling story which reflected the turmoil in Sierra Leone. The film was lauded for the way it focused on child soldiers, their indoctrination and the interlinkages between these themes and education in the region. Accordingly, I am putting forth some of my thoughts on the movie in this post.
The movie follows two main characters: Danny Archer (a south African smuggler) and Solomon Vandy (a villager forced to work in the diamond mines). In the story, Archer is on a quest to find a rare stone left behind by Vandy, while Vandy’s quest sees him trying to find his son who has been abducted by the Revolutionary United Front (a rebel army that actually operated in Africa from 1999-2002). As said by the director, a man looking for a diamond and a man looking for his son provided an interesting juxtaposition: the child is the real jewel.
The movie starts with Vandy sending his son off to school, as he wishes for him to get an education. This is another sad reflection of the situation in Africa where parents wish this for their children but are unable to facilitate it due to constant conflict. His son gets kidnapped by the RUF and is made to stay in a facility with child soldiers so he may become like them. Although not explicitly stated, the facility resembles an abandoned school building, one where the classrooms are now being used to teach the children about violence, guns, and bloodshed. This is, of course, a theme we’ve greatly examined in our course as well.
The director also remarked that, in most countries, it is considered normal for young children to play with make-believe or toy guns. However, when filming in Mozambique with local child actors, such actions struck a chord as they represented a darker reality. Thus, the executives felt it necessary to consult psychologists for such scenes, and even had them present on set (with them doing work with parents and teachers).
By the end of the movie, we see Vandy reuniting with his son, only to find that the sweet school going boy is now a fully brainwashed child soldier, one who is pointing a gun at his own father, silently chanting the violent tunes taught to him in RUF classes. We also see something spectacular here. Vandy brings his son back to the light by reminding him of who he was, a young boy, not a young soldier, who loved going to school, attending classes, and playing soccer there with his friends. It was almost as if the message being conveyed was that, while conflict and education are linked, and one can lead to the other, they are both also the antithesis to each other, with education being seen as a sort of antidote against conflict.
One last interesting thing to note is that this movie had an ultimate goal of showing the child soldiers as what they truly are: impressionable children who don’t know any better. Apparently, it was meant to spark forgiveness in the region as many people still do not forgive previous child soldiers for their acts, which disallows them from being reintegrated into society and gaining an education or normalcy, let alone being given the chance to get their innocence back.