Monthly Archives: March 2008

Blood Diamond (2006)

Blood diamonds or conflict diamonds are “diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council”. (United Nations definition of Conflict Diamonds).  (For more information about blood dimaonds, click here.)

How does a teacher help young business students understand the relationship between the diamond business, globalization, war, and the despair amidst wealth that the African people face today. Blood Dimaond (2006) is a Hollywood adventure-drama film that takes us through the complete supply chain of the diamond trade. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly make topics like blood diamonds, which most of our young students do not know much about, much more interesting to discuss and learn about in ways that most teachers (like myself) can not. (The official site of the movie can be accessed by clicking here).

bd.jpg The movie is set in the Sierra Leone civil war of the late 1990s. The story revolves around Danny Archer- an ex mercenary from Rhodesia with a tortured past- and Solomon Vandy- a fisherman who like most parents around the world dreams of a good future for his son. Though both men are Africans, one is white and the other black, which is enough to take their lives in different directions. Solomon is kidnapped by rebel forces and taken to work in diamond mines where he chances upon a rare and big diamond. The rebel commader sees him trying to hide the diamond. However, before Solomon is forced to give up the diamond government forces attack the rebel and Solomon is arrested. In prison, Solomon’s path crosses Archer who has been caught smuggling diamonds from the country. Archer proposes to help Solomon find his lost wife and children in exchange for the diamond. The two men are assisted by Maddy Bowen, an idealistic American journalist who finds herself attracted to the daring Archer. At each step of the way, Danny, Solomon, and Maddy find themselves having to fight the corrupt and greedy bureaucracy, rebel forces, and business interests who profit immensely from the illegal trade in African diamonds. The rest of the movie is about the search for the diamond in rebel territory, with Solomon driven by the motivation to be united with his family and Archer by the chance to get out of Africa.

The movie was well received by critics, media, and viewers. It is a great story with compelling characters. I hope it also makes people think about the human side of the global diamond trade, especially the lives lost in getting that wedding ring to the store.     

The China Syndrome (1979)

chinasyndrome.jpg The China Syndrome (1979) is thriller story about a sudden unexpected breakdown at a nuclear power plant. Two TV reporters, played by Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas, are in a nuclear plant for a news-report on energy production. The two unexpectedly become witness to what they later realize is a cover-up at the nuclear plant. The company they work for is not interested in running the news story and the nuclear plant will do anything to hide the break-down from the public. The two reporters manage to get to the heart of the story with the help of a whistle-blower, who ends up being killed in trying to prevent the plant for pursuing business interests over serious safety issues.

I am not sure what people thought about the plot when the movie was being made or on the day it was released, but within a few days of its release The Three Mile Islands accident happened at a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. (For an official summary of the accident click here). Many scientists believe that nuclear energy is the future. The movie and the accident that followed it was a wake-up call for many that the dangers associated with nuclear plants are very real.

This movie was also a great example of the dangers associated with whistle-blowing. The whistle-blower at the nuclear plant was just trying to do what he thought was the right thing to do. We talk a lot about whistle-blowing in schools and colleges encouraging our students to speak up when they see something wrong in their workplace, the movie is about how far things can go for whistle-blowers.     

Trading Places

tp.jpg Trading Places (2002) is the story of a poor guy and a rich guy who cross paths by accident. This accident, however, changes life for both of them. Two rich and powerful men, Randolph and Marty Duke, make a million dollar bet as to whether the rich guy can maintain his virtues in the face of poverty and if the poor guy can become virtuous in affluence. The two brothers manipulate the situation and put each guy in the other guy’s situation. The movie is a business comedy about how the two guys think and act in situations that are completely alien to them.  Are people what they are because of genetics or of environment? This is a long standing debate in psychology and behavioral studies. The movie favors the environmental explanation as changing the environment influences the behavior of both the rich guy and the poor guy. However, that’s not only reason to watch the movie. It is also a fun movie to learn about many finance-related concepts that most people don’t think about in their daily lives.

Of course, Eddie Murphy makes the movie a fun watch anyway. The guy was made for comedy movies!