By Heather Leszczewicz Special to Published Dec 08, 2006 at 5:18 AM

It's no secret that conditions are bad in Africa. This is the one idea that has been steadily conveyed to the public for years. There's never a shortage of movies that have to do with the plight of the African people, this year alone four movies based in Africa have been released: "Tsotsi," "The Last King of Scotland," "Catch a Fire" and now "Blood Diamond."

The one thing people knows comes from Sierra Leone is diamonds. Younger generations can thank Kanye West for the history lesson with his song "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" while the conflict has been raging for years.

In 1999, the conflict diamond war raged quiet ferociously. Quiet villages were disrupted by small bands of men and boys that would kill some villagers, cut off limbs and tear others from the places and people they knew.

Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) found himself foraging for diamonds in the rivers in the middle of the Sierra Leone wilderness while his family tries to survive along with the rest of the refugees. He finds what could be the biggest pink diamond that anyone has ever seen and he buries it, to hide it from his captors. The group, known as the R.U.F., finds a large group of its members taken into custody.

The news of Solomon's diamond gets around. Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a Rhodesian transplant and diamond smuggler, decides to use Solomon, promise to find his family as long as he gets the diamond in return. The two become unwilling partners, using each other for personal gain.

American reporter Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), also gets in on the using game. She helps Solomon and Archer traverse across the continent in hopes to squeeze a story out of Archer, with him going on record as to how he smuggles diamonds and who's his boss.

"Last Samurai" director Edward Zwick has a very poignant and beautiful movie on his hands. "Blood Diamond" takes the one thing that is said to be a "girl's best friend" and "last forever" and addresses a conflict that people rarely think about when heading into a jewelry store.

The effects of a single diamond are place on the movie screen with the need to convey how dangerous and how violent the situation was only a few years ago. Much of the movie involves gun fights and bombs, sometimes it's graphic enough to beg the audience to look away. The story is more than just about Solomon and Archer, it addresses the bigger picture: Greed, violence and the sad situations.

One of the saddest point brought up in the movie is the stealing and brainwashing of village children. These children act as soldiers for groups like the R.U.F. They tote around AK-47s and kill because they adapt to the violent environment. Solomon's own son finds himself in the same situation and it takes everything in Solomon to make him his son again.

Both DiCaprio and Hounsou put up stellar performances, while Connelly has a nice and simple supporting role.

"Blood Diamond's" trailers made DiCaprio's accent basically laughable, a mixture of British and African. But it fits in quite well with the rest of the movie. He doesn't waver unless he's yelling at the top of his lungs. The movies he has made this year show how much he's grown up and how much more admirable his performances are. He's no longer just the pretty boy all the girls fall in love with.

Hounsou puts his soul into his performance. Your heart will break as you see the anguish he exhibits over losing his family and the innocence mixed with fear as the rebels enslave him. It wouldn't be surprising to see his name crop up when award season rolls around.

"Blood Diamond's" one downside comes with the time and pacing. At about two hours and 18 minutes, the movie is horribly long. At least a half an hour could have been cut without losing any integrity of the movie. There are low points in "Blood Diamond" that really don't add anything to the plot but just point out more bad things about the African situation.

As a whole, "Blood Diamond" succeeds at being both an uplifting and incredibly heartbreaking film. It brings light to all sorts of situations -- refugees, violence, conflict diamonds and the Western world's indifference to the problem.

Heather Leszczewicz Special to

Originally from Des Plaines, Ill., Heather moved to Milwaukee to earn a B.A. in journalism from Marquette University. With a tongue-twisting last name like Leszczewicz, it's best to go into a career where people don't need to say your name often.

However, she's still sticking to some of her Illinoisan ways (she won't reform when it comes to things like pop, water fountain or ATM), though she's grown to enjoy her time in the Brew City.

Although her journalism career is still budding, Heather has had the chance for some once-in-a-lifetime interviews with celebrities like actor Vince Vaughn and actress Charlize Theron, director Cameron Crowe and singers Ben Kweller and Isaac Hanson of '90s brother boy band Hanson. 

Heather's a self-proclaimed workaholic but loves her entertainment. She's a real television and movie fanatic, book nerd, music junkie, coffee addict and pop culture aficionado.