Warner Bros’ Blood Diamond and its stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly did not garner their usual share of glossy mag coverage even though ‘tis the season for such shameless self-promotion. But that’s because those media outlets depend on full-page advertising from the diamond cartel, which, as I reported in my Blood From Stones LA Weekly column on November 1st, has been working overtime to discredit Ed Zwick’s opus opening December 8th. On the other hand, doing a great job of discrediting himself is Russell Simmons who spent the past week trotting around Africa on a trip paid for by the De Beers-led Diamond Council and clouding the conflict diamonds issue with pathological self-promotion since he hawks his own line of overpriced bling. Before departing for South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique, Simmons met on November 15th with Larry Cox, the executive director of American International in the U.S., and Corinna Gilfillan from Global Witness. But those groups who’ve been working in the African trenches for decades were quickly ignored when Simmons upon his arrival cast himself as the Dark Continent’s Messianic saviour and made a bizarre statement describing his tour in terms of a divine pilgrimage with references to Farrakhan and God. (Imagine how that must have freaked the diamond cartel.) Simmons was issuing daily press releases, putting up a video on YouTube, and today announcing some vague initiative he’ll spearhead for purely PR purposes. As for the movie Blood Diamond, Warner’s is worried by the lack of buzz. The studio has traditionally loathed message marketing, so its TV ads make it look like just another heist pic. Then there’s the problem with Africa being overused as one big photo op by celebs eager to showcase their compassion with publicists in tow. The kind of attention and support and funding that continent needs in so many areas takes commitment and projects and intelligence, none of which the entertainment industry is usually known for. This terrain is too complex for the typical movie trailer.
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