Blood Diamond director blasts Oscar's "Colossal cluelessness"

Raise Your Right Hand campaign doesn’t get Edward Zwick’s vote

They may have been waiting to hear how many Oscar nominations they’d received for their brilliant Blood Diamond, but that didn’t stop Edward Zwick and his producer partner Paula Weinstein from blasting the Academy yesterday; paying special attention to the ceremony itself.

Oscar likes its charitable causes and its political projects, but it also likes its bling – with actresses (and in rare cases, actors) often prancing down the red carpet draped in diamonds.

Which, considering Blood Diamond’s main message – that a large number of the diamonds we buy in the shops have a devastating price attached, the lives of millions of Africans – leads to an obvious conflict of interest.

The question is: how does Oscar honour that message, without taking away the A-list’s favourite trinkets? The Academy may have thought they had found a solution, but Edward Zwick isn’t impressed.

“I’ve just heard about this initiative that’s been proposed to have at the Oscars, which is this ‘Raise Your Right Hand’ campaign, which offers a charitable contribution of ten thousand dollars to any actor or actress who wears bling.

“The cruel irony, which I’m sure is unconscious,” Zwick continued, “is that the raising of one’s hand and the using of one’s hand to vote was the prompt for the Revolutionary United Front to chop off hands in Sierra Leone. It’s either some colossal cluelessness or remarkable indifference to that reality that would somehow try to equate raising one’s hand with a diamond on it as a promotional counter-measure to the effect of the film.

“My grandfather always told me that charity was always best done in private, and this notion of a charitable contribution as a blandishment to wear diamonds is the creation of a new trope in our culture, I think it’s the charitable bribe, and I find that rather distasteful, I have to say.”

Paula Weinstein has her own view on the issue. “The diamond industry has set up a plan for the Oscars to make sure that the movie stars wear diamonds, that they are drowning in diamonds, and when asked, to suggest that they have non-conflict diamonds, so that as the women go down the red carpet they can talk about conflict diamonds and continue to support legitimate diamond workers, the answer was no.

“There’s been a concerted campaign, rather than taking on the movie in the best way, there’s been a desire to circumvent that and not support the work that the movie talks about, and frankly, I find it rather surprising.”