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Diamonds are not forever

The documentary film „Diamonds are not forever” examines Botswana’s biggest development challenges and the efforts to overcome them. The film is a revealing case study, whose snapshots depict a welfare state in southern Africa.

“They are not forever. Nothing is forever” – these wistful words open a documentary that captures snapshots of the southern-African nation of Botswana. Lying outside mainstream tourist circuits, Botswana rarely attracts the media’s attention and remains an unfamiliar land most often perceived through common Western stereotypes of Africa.

The documentary “Diamonds are not forever” is a revealing case study on this unknown region of the world. Relying on straightforward means of expression and without over-burdening the film with instructional intent, the filmmakers attempt to overcome fatalistic mainstream opinions that consign this region of Africa to political, economic and social oblivion.

With the United Nations Millennium Development Goals as their point of reference, the filmmakers examine Botswana’s biggest development challenges, including environmental difficulties, especially people’s limited access to drinking water, as well as the HIV/ AIDS epidemic, educational needs and natural resource management based on local community rights.

The filmmakers have avoided imposing their own narration on the film in order to give full voice to its subjects in illustrating how the Batswana people are coping with development challenges – at the same time gradually revealing an Africa that refutes Western stereotypes. What emerges from the backdrop of individual stories is a portrait of abrupt modernization processes and uncontrolled globalization increasingly stamping their imprint on the edges of Kalahari.

Diamonds are Botswana’s prime natural resource and the country’s biggest source of export revenues. Yet, although diamonds are the film’s leitmotif, they never appear on the screen. Their sparkle may rise over the Kalahari today, but the film’s protagonists know that it will not last forever – sometimes they say so openly, at other times words are unnecessary.

Is the film a contemporary take on Levi-Strauss’ landmark “Tristes tropiques”? No – what we see instead is a surprising world revolving on three axes: diamonds, communities, and government. The film shows that communities are not helplessly gripped in a vise between natural riches and opportunistic administration, as many conventional images of Africa would have us believe. It turns out that a different reality is possible.

The documentary „Diamonds are not forever” was produced by Red Branch Polska, financed by Red Branch Polska and Global Development Research Group, and subsidized by a grant from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs within the “Development Education 2010” programme operated by the Education for Democracy Foundation.

English version of the documentary: