“Blood Diamond” should have been shot in Sierra Leone.

Scene from Blood Diamond

Apparently, some people are upset that Blood Diamond gave a negative portrayal of Sierra Leone.

I think it’s ridiculous for people to argue over whether or not the movie is positive or negative. The themes of the movie—war, violence, amputation, exploitation—are negative so it’s ineviatable the movie will be negative. But banning it!!?? That’s just dumb. That would be like Germans calling for every Holocaust film to be banned because it’s negative.

What bothered me about the movie is the fact that it wasn’t even filmed in Sierra Leone. Most of it anyway. The beach bar scene was not filmed at the beach in the capital, Freetown. The cast was not even Sierra Leonean: their accented Krio was a dead giveaway, as was their accented English. Sierra Leoneans don’t roll their Rs the way East and Southern Africans do. Also, there are no cheetahs in Sierra Leone, and the fishing village in the opening scene was obviously somewhere in Eastern Africa. Sierra Leonean fishing boats are large, dug-out canoes that are propeled by paddles or motors, not sails. Those triangular sails are found in East Africa.

Apparently, some filming was done in Sierra Leone but, according to the director, “Equatorial West Africa just didn’t have the infrastructure to accommodate all our needs for this size production. We needed other locations, as well.” In the end, most of the film was shot in South Africa and Mozambique, which is a pity because Sierra Leone can hold it’s own against any African country in terms of natural beauty and the recovering tourist industry would no doubt have benefited tremendoulsy from the publicity.

Although the plot was entertaining and action-packed, I was repeatedly irritated to see scenes that were obviously not Sierra Leone. Ultimately, Blood Diamond got away with not being filmed on location because of the audience’s ignorance about Africa. Anyone who knows the difference between West, East, and Southern Africa would have been disappointed.

Perhaps the filmmakers did not expect any Sierra Leoneans to see their movie, which is sad because wasn’t the movie supposed to be about the Sierra  Leonean experience? It’s possible they were only interested in profiting from this national catastrophe. I understand that Hollywood studios exist to make money for their shareholders but the least they could have done was shoot more of the movie in Sierra Leone.

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11 thoughts on ““Blood Diamond” should have been shot in Sierra Leone.

  1. I am Welile From South Africa axactly where thr film was shot.
    peaple must understand that the filming depenend on interests. if Siera Leonians was interested they should have tried to create movie.Beside many south african deny if movie was shot here bcoz the eccent is not Mpondo and Zulus.and this is movie not a documentary.

    and South Africa is Africa too people should be happy that we want to more afticans thats why we still gonna release another movie about Siera Leon. and if gonna be hot like BLOOD DIAMOND.

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  2. I get your irritation regarding the many goofs like the extras using non-Sierra Leonian dialect or the surroundings not looking right. I experience the same cringed when watching Hollywood movies that portray my country’s culture in a wrong fashion. There’s little to forgive also, since it wouldn’t require much effort to get things right, at least regarding my culture.

    As for this movie, being pretty ignorant regarding African culture, I of course couldn’t tell whether the accent or surroundings were filmed in Sierra Leon or not and it didn’t really matter to my viewing pleasure.

    However, I wonder why you insist that movie should have been exclusively shot on location when the director made it perfectly clear that he checked out the country first and then only looked for alternatives where the infrastructure wouldn’t allow those scenes to be filmed. In the end, this wasn’t about the local beauty of nature, but to be able to produce this film in the first place. Had Sierra Leone had the necessary infrastructure to support a project of that size, they would have filmed it there.

    As for the argument regarding the tourism industry, I doubt that anyone in their right mind would have wanted to relax in a war torn country where when the movie came out the UN peacekeeping troops had just left, especially since there couldn’t have been much of an infrastructure for tourism from earlier times, seeing how long the civil war had lasted.

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  3. I have slept in the jungle in Sierra Leone while exploring for diamonds there and been to Kono where the diggers ride their Chinese motorcycles and hang out along the dusty main drag in the evening. I even got malaria there, forgetting my insect repellant in a particularly mosquitoe ridden hoteI in Bo. I was happy with the movie and found the throwaway shots of the cheetah, grazing elephants and a chimpanzee to be just another example of artistic license gone too far (15 minutes of research would have cured this), also, no snakes despite all the jungle travel – too negative. They also hardly touched on the horror of that war – happy to keep it relatively light so people wouldn’t leave the theater. Still a credible reflection of what motivated the war, who was involved and what the outcome was – Executive Outcomes gets the only hard rock diamond mine, the Kono Dyke, in the end.

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  4. I live in Philadelphia Pa and they (hollywood do it all the time. The have made moveies about Philadelphia and not one scene showed any thing about Philadelphia.

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  5. I do agree that it’s a shame more wasn’t filmed here(Sierra leone). I’ve been in SL for 11 months now and it is CERTAINLY beautiful. I havent been up toward Kono(It’s a pretty stupid idea for anyone to go there unless you’re authorized). I havent seen the movie since coming, though I’d love to and plan to before I leave in a few weeks, but from the screen shot above- the likeness to Freetown is 100% candid… it reminds me of a section downtown to a T… As for your comments about the boats- you’re seriously mistaken about the sails. Yes they’re dugouts and they are normally propelled by an engine, or most of the time paddles, however, there are DEFINITELY sails… how effective they are depends on their creator, but they are DEFINITELY a west african thing… they have them in Benin… it’s not a strictly South African thing.

    It is indeed a shame to not be filmed in SL- the mountains and beaches are 100% stunning, but I think it gets the point across- that this terrible war happened to these people and their story was told. Living here- I can say- I see so many of the stories of the people I’ve helped in these people… Some things are a little off, but that’ll always without a doubt happen no matter what movie you produce- something will always me inauthentic…. but that’s the film industry for you!

    🙂 Thanks for the post!

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  6. Honestly, I am glad to find out that the film was filmed in Africa period. Having just seen it, I kept wondering the whole way through wether it was a different country all together in which it was easier for the producers to shoot. However, I completely agree that it would have been right to film in Sierra Leone to atleast bring to them a share of positive media exposure seeing as the story that made way for ‘Blood Diamond’ came from that country.

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  7. I agree with Chris. The important bit of the movie was the story, not the scenery. The backdrop was just that…a backdrop. Provided it wasn’t wildly out of place (for instance filming in the Canadian Arctic and calling it Sierra Leone) the movie makers really shouldn’t be blamed for attempting to cut down on costs by actually filming in places that can support their production needs. A lot of films have done this in the past. For instance the 1984 film “Bounty” about the Mutiny on the Bounty had no filming done on Pitcairn even though Pitcairn is an important part of that story. Filming had been done in New Zealand (which never features in the entire historical Mutiny). It’s true that the Bounty film makers did go to French Polynesia, but French Polynesia has much more infrastructure than Pitcairn. Had the Bounty film-makers attempted to follow the exact route of the persons involved in the Mutiny of the Bounty I’m sure they would not have been able to complete the film as it would have become too expensive and would have died in production. Likewise it is quite possible that Blood Diamond might well have failed had it been done exactly on location. Then there might have been no Blood Diamond movie to popularize the general story of what happened in Sierra Leone and bring to people’s attention and inspire renewed interest in ensuring that the diamonds that are bought as gifts didn’t come at the expense of someone else’s life or wellbeing.

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  8. I have just seen the film for the first time and to be honest, I am ignorant to the variations in Africa but the film made it’s point: It showed the horror that has been. That was the important bit. If i wanted to see a film about Africa then I would watch a documentary

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  9. Hollywood does what it wants. You are right. Most people aren’t going to know about authenticity as you describe.

    Since you do know these things I can see how it would bother your sensibilities. It would be like someone coming to Seattle to film a story about San Francisco. Not exactly spot on.

    Patrick

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