CBC miniseries Diamonds explores political and personal dilemmas

Heidi Wicks
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Bay d'Espoir native Joanne Kelly fell in love with South Africa all over again while there on location for "Diamonds," a CBC miniseries exploring the violent tendencies of the diamond trade in the Congo.

CBC miniseries "Diamonds" explores political and personal dilemmas
By Heidi Wicks
Special to The Telegram
Bay d'Espoir native Joanne Kelly fell in love with South Africa all over again while there on location for "Diamonds," a CBC miniseries exploring the violent tendencies of the diamond trade in the Congo.
"My character is from a small town whose father is the head of a major diamond company, and she's a geologist and kind of a woman in a man's world. She's on these expeditions to probably prove something to her father as much as herself," she explains.
Kelly's character, Stephanie Dresser, is very passionate about the act of diamond cultivation, but her moral commitment to the trade is tested when her good friend is shot and killed on an expedition in the Congo.
"It's a professional tragedy for her. So, she gets sent to the Canadian Arctic to sort of lick her wounds. She has to start from scratch, prove herself to these bushmen who live there and has to hunt for diamonds. What was interesting about this project was the trickle down effect of these huge corporations and how their actions affect all the people who work in the industry. Stephanie is a strong girl, she doesn't like to show remorse or couldn't afford to show softness around these men in the Arctic."
The politics of industry and greed is a prominent theme in the piece, similar to such recent films as "Blood Diamonds."
As well, the conflict between doing what you love (with the science of diamond cultivation) and knowing the bloodshed it sometimes causes is something with which Kelly's character has to struggle.
"It happens all over the world - there's something that we see as innocuous or glamorous. It's that drive for materialism, and we don't realize the implications that has on Third World countries. Look what's going on in Dafur right now. For years no one has said anything internationally. It just becomes another soundbite on the news. It doesn't move us to try and fix it, we remain detached and mostly ignorant."
Kelly parallels her character's struggle with one many people may wrestle with - whether you're environmentalist working in the oil industry or a fashionista buying clothes, with or without knowing they're made in sweat shops.
"We just don't realize - or choose not to realize - the ramifications it has on Third World countries," she says.

Loves Africa
"I had worked there before to film, and I love it so much," Kelly says wistfully, adding she could easily live there.
"In a heartbeat if I could. Apartheid ended 15 years ago, and now everything there is hot. Politics - people from all races and cultures talk about it. Everything is new and edgy there, and everyone is informed there. It's also a little bit dangerous, there's not that kind of bland North American feeling of distance from things that are happening in the world. In Africa it's impossible not to be moved, or be afraid, or be observant of another way of life, because they've gone through so much themselves."
She is inspired by the different influences in the countries.
"It just makes you so much more aware, interested, and active in what's going on," she says. "There's just such a feeling of hope there. There are some people who are very despondent and bitter about what has gone on there. But there's a beautiful light inside of them that refuses to believe that things won't be better for their grandchildren. That's something that I think North Americans totally get - we're very immediate here, and need immediate gratification. They have the ability to enjoy the small things."

Loves Newfoundland
Getting home to Newfoundland is something she strives to do, at least a couple times a year.
"I'm usually home for 2-3 weeks over Christmas, if possible, and once in the summer if I can help it," she says, adding the rawness of this province reminds her of Africa.
"I miss home. I still see and talk to everyone from home. That's the thing about being Newfies, it doesn't really get out of our systems. It's funny because growing up in a small town and being artistically minded - there was no theatre company, so when I left I was excited. But then when you leave you realize all the things you miss. Even the closeness to the ocean and rocks. There's no other place that is as raw as Newfoundland. Only Africa I can compare it to - you can't really gentrify it, it is what it is."
"Diamonds" airs on CBC television - part one airs April 5, and part two airs April 12.

Organizations: CBC, Third World, Canadian Arctic North American

Geographic location: Congo, South Africa, Africa Arctic Newfoundland Dafur

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