June 27, 2006

New film starring DiCaprio rattles diamond industry

By Tova Cohen

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - "The Blood Diamond," a film in
production starring Leonardo DiCaprio, could hurt diamond sales
and the livelihoods of people in Africa, industry leaders
warned on Tuesday.

The Warner Brothers film being shot in Africa shows how
"conflict diamonds" financed bloody civil wars. DiCaprio
portrays a mercenary jailed for smuggling in Sierra Leone,
where a civil war lasting until 2002 killed 50,000 people.

Industry officials attending the opening of the World
Diamond Congress said the situation with conflict diamonds had
dramatically improved in recent years and expressed concern
that the movie would not reflect this.

"The problem of conflict diamonds is practically over,"
Shmuel Schnitzer, outgoing president of the World Federation of
Diamond Bourses (WFDB), told Reuters at the conference in Tel
Aviv, among the world's top diamond cutting and trading

"To show a film that will lead the public to think the
situation is still the same is an injustice to our industry
which has done so much," he said.

In a press release issued in February, Warner Bros.
Pictures said The Blood Diamond, starring DiCaprio and Jennifer
Connelly, had started production in South Africa and

It did not say when it will be released and company
officials could not be reached for comment. The unofficial IMDb
movie database has the U.S. release date as January, 2007.


The diamond industry fears the movie could hurt sales,
especially if it hits theatres around the end of the year
during the peak holiday shopping season.

"The people that the movie is trying to help could be hurt
the most if it's left without an explanation since livelihoods
in Africa depend on income from diamonds," said Eli Izhakoff,
chairman and CEO of the World Diamond Council (WDC).

"It will hurt them with a downturn in sales. It can have an
adverse effect on all of Africa," Izhakoff said.

He and other diamond industry officials say the situation
has changed radically since a system of certification for rough
diamonds known as the Kimberley Process was instituted in 2000.

The WDC is currently negotiating with the movie studio to
add a scene at the end that would show the implementation of
the Kimberley Process.

"They are hearing us and getting documentation and
evidence," Izhakoff said. "When all is said and done, they want
to be fair."

According to Schnitzer, conflict diamonds account for only
0.2 percent of the world's rough diamonds, down from 3-4
percent a few years ago, but industry and human rights groups
differ on how much the practice persists.

Amnesty International, which launched a Valentine's Day
campaign against conflict diamonds, said that diamonds mined in
rebel-held areas of West Africa's Ivory Coast were still
reaching the international market.

(Additional reporting by Steven Scheer)