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Author Topic: "Blood Diamond" and other movies set in Africa
bigcitygal
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posted 10 January 2007 05:30 AM      Profile for bigcitygal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I haven't seen the movie, or a number of the other ones mentioned in the article, but I appreciate the points made. Thoughts?

quote:

A whiter shade of guile: Features: Guardian Unlimited

In Blood Diamond, Leonardo DiCaprio is the latest in a long line of Caucasian crusaders fighting for po' black folks. Joe Queenan is once again staggered at Hollywood's sheer gall.

Eighteen years ago, Edward Zwick made the very well-thought-of film Glory, in which a ragtag group of feisty young black men are whipped into shape by a white guy played by the actor who brought Ferris Bueller to life.

(snip)

Now Zwick himself is back with a film in which a feisty but hapless black guy is whipped into shape by a white guy played by an actor who first achieved fame by playing a mentally handicapped boy in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? If there is anything black people the world over have learned from Hollywood - and there isn't a whole lot - it's that no matter how bleak the situation seems, they can always rely on some resourceful, charismatic and, in some instances, shapely white person to bail them out.

(snip)

Thoroughly unprincipled, handy with firearms, brandishing the most flamboyant Rhodesian accent to grace the silver screen in decades, and not particularly nice, the stone-free DiCaprio does not initially look like the white man who will help Hounsou find his son, escape from Sierra Leone, bring corrupt white diamond merchants to justice and live happily ever after. No, that role would seem to fall to the radiant Jennifer Connelly, here playing an American journalist determined to make the world safe for democracy, if not through her literary skills, then by transfixing an entire continent with her Children of the Corn stare and putting them all to sleep in a kind of hypnotically induced ceasefire.

(snip)

Despite Connelly's beatific stature as the White Journalist Who Cares - and Cares Deeply - she gradually finds her role as the anointed one filched from right under her by the morally recrudescent DiCaprio. For, as the film proceeds, and as more and more horrible black rebels kill off horrible black soldiers representing the horrible black regime - every black person in the film is either a victim or a monster - DiCaprio gradually comes to realise that there are more important things in life than money, that ebony needs ivory, that diamonds are not forever.

(snip)

Blood Diamond joins a growing body of films set in Africa in which good vanquishes evil because morally upstanding white folks ultimately triumph over truly satanic white folks. Meanwhile, the entire black African population kind of takes a back seat and watches the honkies duke it out.


Full article here guardian.co.uk


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Free_Radical
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posted 12 January 2007 07:39 AM      Profile for Free_Radical     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Since these are movies directed towards western audiences, those audiences need a character they can relate and connect to - such as those played by Broderick or Di Caprio. But these characters do not necessarily need to be white.

In the two examples given, the white characters represent people with an "out", people who could if they chose, very easily remain uninvolved - just like all of us watching in theatres or in our comfortable homes. Broderick's character does not need to lead his all-black regiment and is actually offered, several times, commissions elsewhere. It would be very easy for Di Caprio's character to just quit Sierra Leone.

Instead, the movies thrust someone like us - charcters with a comfortable and safe life - into the issue.

Look at Hotel Rwanda - the main characters (both heroes and villains) are all black. But, I would say that Cheadle's hotel manager fills the exact same role as Broderick and Di Caprio's characters - someone with an "out" who could have left the conflict behind.

It is not about race or making heroes out of white people, but about creating a film audiences can connect with


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Catchfire
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posted 06 June 2007 06:26 AM      Profile for Catchfire   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
So I just saw The Last King of Scotland. I can't figure out if this movie is racist, colonialist carp (well, it is, but wait to see where I'm going) or a wonderful articulation of why the white, middle-class West understands nothing about the struggles in Africa, and why the attempt to control or dictate power structures in cultures we are clueless about is tyranny.

The (fictional) protagonist is a white, young, Scottish doctor who wants to sleep with a lot of African chicks and "make a difference." His position of privilege is implicitly criticized in the film, but that doesn't stop him from acting as the subject position. We sympathize almost entirely with him, wondering if he will make it out of this insane country in time after we realize he's gotten in too deep.

Obviously Forrest Whitaker (who is amazing in the film) is the villain, but he is also quite righteous with regards to the British Empire, who is portrayed as pompous, snivelling and with a fading view of reality. There is a distinct lack of connection with the terrible plight of the Ugandan people, who died by the hundreds of thousands, but isn't that exactly how Western philanthropy and foreign policy deals with Africa? It seems to me that the movie wants to make this statement.

It reminds me of the blind aristocrat in Coup de Torchon who wades cluelessly through a mass of crying, starving African children intoning "Golden fields! I'm walking towards golden fields!" (or some such, my memory's a bit hazy).


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dackle
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posted 06 June 2007 06:52 AM      Profile for dackle        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
With regard to Glory, Black regiments were commanded by white officers up until World War 2. Glory is in fact based on a real regiment, real people, and real action during the US Civil War.

Should historical fact take a back seat to modern political tastes?


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JayPotts
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posted 06 June 2007 07:33 AM      Profile for JayPotts   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I have seen most of the movies mentioned and after each one this debate about why is it always the white folks saving the black folks...or atleast the majority of the times. Even in movies like Dangerous Minds or recently Freedom Writers (even if it is a true stroy) you have the white teacher saving the inner city youth.

I guess it all has to do with marketing and who is watching the movies...mostly white folks .

But them again movies are often made about things that don't usually happen in the norm.


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JayPotts
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posted 06 June 2007 07:35 AM      Profile for JayPotts   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I have seen most of the movies mentioned and after each one this debate about why is it always the white folks are always saving the black folks...or atleast the majority of the times, always come to mind. Even in movies like Dangerous Minds or recently Freedom Writers (even if it is a true stroy) you have the white teacher saving the inner city youth.

I guess it all has to do with marketing and who is watching the movies...mostly white folks .

But them again movies are often made about things that don't usually happen in the norm.

[ 06 June 2007: Message edited by: JayPotts ]


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Martha (but not Stewart)
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posted 06 June 2007 08:26 AM      Profile for Martha (but not Stewart)     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Maybe "To Sir With Love" is more revolutionary than it is is ever given credit for. (And what a great title song...)
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Fidel
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posted 06 June 2007 11:03 AM      Profile for Fidel     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I almost wept for Leonardo at the end like I did at the fin of Titanic. I think my favourite Leo movie was The Beach a few years ago. He was more himself in that one. I still listen to Angelo Badalamenti's electronic musical sound track, which is very haunting, so powerful for me. And if the womanizing eco-tistical actor himself doesn't appeal to anyone, then forget the movie and just get the sound track.
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Stargazer
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posted 06 June 2007 11:10 AM      Profile for Stargazer     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Am I the only one who hated Titanic? And the Beach was a horrible adaptation of an amazing book with DiCaprio miscast in the lead. Yuck and double yuck. he looks like a 12 year old boy, and there is nothing sexy about that.
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Max Bialystock
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posted 06 June 2007 11:11 AM      Profile for Max Bialystock     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by JayPotts:
I have seen most of the movies mentioned and after each one this debate about why is it always the white folks saving the black folks...or atleast the majority of the times. Even in movies like Dangerous Minds or recently Freedom Writers (even if it is a true stroy) you have the white teacher saving the inner city youth.

Good point - it's kind of like the white man's burden with a progressive twist.


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Fidel
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posted 06 June 2007 11:41 AM      Profile for Fidel     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Stargazer:
Am I the only one who hated Titanic? And the Beach was a horrible adaptation of an amazing book with DiCaprio miscast in the lead. Yuck and double yuck. he looks like a 12 year old boy, and there is nothing sexy about that.

I guess I can relate somewhat to Leo having had a baby face all my life. Picture a 40 year-old Leo without the money, fame and naked romps with Naomi Campbell on a Cuban beach.

But Rose didn't marry for money! She followed her heart, near, FAR, wheeeeerEVER you ...And my heart will go on and on and on and ...
WOOOoooOOO OoooOOOO

[ 06 June 2007: Message edited by: Fidel ]


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Stargazer
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posted 06 June 2007 12:15 PM      Profile for Stargazer     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
hahahahaha. You are so cute!
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jas
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posted 06 June 2007 12:39 PM      Profile for jas     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Fidel:

Picture a 40 year-old Leo without the money, fame and naked romps with Naomi Campbell on a Cuban beach.

yeah, but somehow I'm also picturing a receding hairline... not that there's anything wrong with that!


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Fidel
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posted 06 June 2007 02:15 PM      Profile for Fidel     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by jas:

yeah, but somehow I'm also picturing a receding hairline... not that there's anything wrong with that!


I sometimes wish I was topless. Less of an aggravation in the morning. Starting to grey on the sides though. bwbwbwbw I'm becoming one of the invisible majority. Grey hair and balding are such death symbols.


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Stargazer
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posted 06 June 2007 03:45 PM      Profile for Stargazer     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I happen to think a shaved head is very sexy.

[ 06 June 2007: Message edited by: Stargazer ]


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jas
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posted 06 June 2007 04:47 PM      Profile for jas     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Bald tops with a nice haircut can be too.

Hmm, OK my picture of Fidel is shattered. Now I'm getting George Clooney...

[oops, sorry - thread drift]

[ 06 June 2007: Message edited by: jas ]


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Fidel
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posted 06 June 2007 06:43 PM      Profile for Fidel     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
George Clooney is tall dark and homely, I mean "handsome" I'm uh, I'm uh, a cross between a greying Leo and uh, lemme see. Oh, a relative recently said I looked like Jude Law, but she's so way off, because that's not true at all.
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gram swaraj
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posted 06 June 2007 07:49 PM      Profile for gram swaraj   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Why didn't "Blood Diamond" come out earlier, when the problem was at its height, or even better yet, when it was brewing and ready to get worse?

Now there's a certification system in place to reduce traffic in blood diamonds. Does the film mention anything about that? Or now will people buy fewer non-blood diamonds, hurting livelihoods of honest people?

Ah, I know part of the answer to the questions in my first paragraph...it's because no gory, profitable movie plot had yet materialized.

HOLLYWOOD IS DISGUSTING!!!!!


From: mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est la terre | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Martha (but not Stewart)
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posted 06 June 2007 08:45 PM      Profile for Martha (but not Stewart)     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by gram swaraj:
Now there's a certification system in place to reduce traffic in blood diamonds. Does the film mention anything about that?

In "Blood Diamonds", immediately after the last scene and immediately before the credits roll, the screen fades to black and the following appears:

In January 2003, forty nations signed
"The Kimberly Process" -- an effort to
stem the flow of conflict diamonds.

Another fade to black, and then the following appears:

But illegal diamonds still find their way to market.
It is up to a consumer to insist
that a diamond is conflict-free.

Another fade to black, and then the following appears:

Sierra Leone is at peace.
But there are still 200,000 child soldiers in Africa.

Another fade to black, and the credits roll.


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gram swaraj
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posted 07 June 2007 09:37 PM      Profile for gram swaraj   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Hollywood, reactive at best.
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AfroHealer
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posted 11 June 2007 07:45 PM      Profile for AfroHealer   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Free_Radical:
Since these are movies directed towards western audiences, those audiences need a character they can relate and connect to - such as those played by Broderick or Di Caprio. But these characters do not necessarily need to be white.

Instead, the movies thrust someone like us - charcters with a comfortable and safe life - into the issue.

It is not about race or making heroes out of white people, but about creating a film audiences can connect with


Hmmmm .. Why is it that it is assumed that audiences can connect with the character of animales "i.e Lion king" .. but can't connect with stories/images about African starring Africanss?

Reminds me of how the issues of gun violence in Canada, were only worth mentioning in mainstream media when a White girl was killed, a few Xmasses ago.


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Boarsbreath
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posted 21 June 2007 02:52 PM      Profile for Boarsbreath   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Gosh, it must be encouraging to film-makers -- do anything about something real, and if it isn't both academically respectable and politically sound, and covers the whole issue instead of focussing on a STORY, you're, well, "disgusting".

But do something about, say, lovers on the Titanic, and everyone reacts as though it were a movie.


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Catchfire
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posted 21 June 2007 03:07 PM      Profile for Catchfire   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Who here was saying the Titanic was anything but a trite piece of crap? Keep up the trolling though, it's bound to turn out for you.

Anyway, I just saw this movie, and it was not so bad. In a lot of ways, it pointed out some of the horrible atrocities that occur daily in Africa. Of course, the article in the OP is bang on. I would further add that the violence in the movie undermines the films more benevolent qualities with its sensationalism. Normally, I'm a fan of sensationalist violence, but in a movie trying to express the vast human cost of Western exploitation in Africa, it reinscribes many stereotypes the West clings to. Killings in the movie are indiscriminate, exaggerated and groundless. While the movie seems to be trying to reveal the horror of daily life in Africa, it instead transmits the message that Africans kill each other all the time, and for no good reason. In this way, its depiction of sexual violence, child soldiers and mass civil war seems unrealistic, even phantasmagoric. The real violence in Africa has real world motivations that are entirely human--which is in many ways far more horrific.

And the film's ending, of course, offers Western audiences a comforting conclusion that everything has worked out in the end (the brave white man has seen the light, and given his life to save those hapless and needlessly violent Africans). The subtitles that Martha pointed out represent a spineless cop-out that briefly alludes to some potential mop-up work that could be done, but really, the hard lifting has been done. Sierra Leone has cleaned up its act! Hooray! Africa is saved! Now we can watch John McCain kick some ass in Die Hard 3, etc (unfortunate about those child soldiers, but what can you do? T.I.A.!)

That said, I find myself increasingly unable to even reckon with the terrible things happening on the dark continent. It brings me to tears even when the lightest shadow of the truth flickers its way into Western media. So perhaps my criticism of Hollywood is a bit harsh if I can't even bring myself to engage with the horror, the horror.

[ 21 June 2007: Message edited by: Catchfire ]


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Boarsbreath
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posted 21 June 2007 04:01 PM      Profile for Boarsbreath   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
When you (quite rightly) say Titanic was crap, you mean as a movie. When you comment on Blood Diamond, it's a "message".

If you want to see things about, say, modern Africa, that has to mean particular stories about or in modern Africa. Messages will be "sent" of which you disapprove. So it goes. Is there any other topic -- even romantic love among the unusually attractive -- which gets on screens without leaking a wrong "message"?

The more movies set in places we don't see much, the better, period. Even the ones harping on the cliches.

Even Borat did something for Kazakhstan! (Or for a more apt example, The Gods Must Be Crazyand the Kalahari. City of God did more for the poor of Calcutta, I'll bet, than the far better but far bleaker -- really on-message -- Pixote did for those of Rio, simply because it exposed them to more audiences, however hackneyed the exposure. They're only movies: exposure, not nuance, is the actual "message".)


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Fidel
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posted 21 June 2007 04:15 PM      Profile for Fidel     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Catchfire:
And the film's ending, of course, offers Western audiences a comforting conclusion that everything has worked out in the end (the brave white man has seen the light, and given his life to save those hapless and needlessly violent Africans).

I thought that throughout most of the movie, the character Danny Archer was portrayed as pretty much a run of the mill ex-Rhodesian mercenary opportunistic white guy slash scumbag. It was Solomon Vandy who was victimized when his family was abducted by the government soldiers and his son by the rebels - fairly believable if you ask me.

Danny doesn't see anything good in the world until he meets Maddy? was her name. Too much love story for my liking, but that's a tried and true Hollywood formula for selling movies. Besides, what does "love" have to do with anything, really?. OTOH, it can juice up an otherwise grim storyline. Danny ends up dying doing what he's always done, fighting against black people. But this time, there's a little less mercenary scumbag motivating him.

And, it's only a movie. Sure they should have made more mention of the white diamond brokers who horde the dimaonds and thereby stoking the conflict. Lots of people who will see the movie have no idea at all what's been happening anywhere in Africa. It's just a movie, but for many it's an introduction to general awareness of a real world problem. Cudos to DiCaprio and Hounsou for their artistic contributions to a serious issue.


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Bacchus
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posted 21 June 2007 04:24 PM      Profile for Bacchus     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I loved Titanic. or at least I loved the titanic whenever the two lovers werent in it. Great historical work with careful attention to details and actions. It would have been much better if rose and jack were not even a part of the movie.

Its a shame they left out the best part of the realistic anti-racism that happened. And the shameful racism that happened afterwards.


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Catchfire
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posted 21 June 2007 04:48 PM      Profile for Catchfire   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
City of God was excellent. One of the greatest (but it was set in the slums of Rio, not Calcutta). One of the key reasons why CoG is great, however, is that a) it was made by a Brazilian filmmaker, and b) the filmmaker had first-hand experience in the slums he portrayed. Hence, it was a careful, sensitive and wonderful treatment of poverty and crime in Brazil.

You will never convince me that a movie is "just a movie." Culture--society--is made up of all of these things: politics and their representations in media, movies, music, books, comics and virtually anything else. When Western whites attempt to tell a story that is not their own, it is a form of cultural colonization that is no less violent or harmful than the "real" colonization of Africa by Britain, Belgium, France, Holland and the like. I admit that there is something of the graduate student in me when I write that, but that does not invalidate these truths. Culture has more impact on social change than all the protests, sit-ins, newspaper articles and facebook groups you can muster. Why should we not take its construction seriously?


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Fidel
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posted 21 June 2007 05:45 PM      Profile for Fidel     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think you're right, it's just that I don't believe the Blood Diamond movie has the same colonizing effect as, say, western intelligence agencies murdering the Congo's first and last democratically-elected prime minister in 1960, or nearly the same as corporate-sponsored mercenaries fighting government troops for takeover of a diamond or gold mining district in Africa. Africa is still colonized in the sense that the poorest of poor countries are indebted to a cabal of global financiers who insist on oppressive levels of interest on debt payments and economic ideology designed to rob their countries of natural wealth.

There might be time to explain all that and more if it were a documentary. Perhaps it's a case that most people who watch Hollywood movies are not inclined to watch documentaries on the learning channel - listen to an authority on the matter give a speech, or pick up a book describing the situation in detail. I don't know. I think if the medium is effective in creating awareness at all, then it might be a good thing.


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