Sunday, February 11, 2007

Leonardo of Rhodesia

I've been busy over the last couple of weeks doing some freelance writing work and editing my own books, but this is certainly not interesting enough to blog about. However, at last I have something new to report. I went to the movies today.

Predictably, the subject of the movie was Africa - The Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo Di Caprio; a very nice lady with dark hair and blue eyes; and that big black dude who seems to have taken over from Morgan Freeman as Hollywood central casting's trusty African sidekick (I think he was Russ's buddy in Gladiator).

It's a top movie - no two ways about it. Even though it's about the illegal trade in diamonds - and the civil wars, death and mayhem caused in the wake of the trade - you never get the feeling you're being preached at.

Its plot and characters take primacy over the issue, which is a good thing. We have the upright honest villager trying to reunite himself with the family torn from him by the civil war in Sierra Leone (that's the African guy); hard-bitten soldier of fortune who's supposedly only in it for the money, but turns out to have a heart of gold (our Leo); and the cynnical journo who wants to make a difference (the hot chick).

The action shots are great and Leo scores a decent 8.5 from me for his Zimbabwean (or as he puts it, Rhodesian) accent. He reportedly had a lot of coaching and it shows, but even better than the accent is the dialogue, which is peppered with some mush rhodey-isms.

The whole Zimbabwe-Rhodesia thing is interesting, particularly since Mrs Blog and I have had a couple of excellent dinners in the last few weeks with some ex Zimbabwean/Rhodesians living in Sydney. They're all great people (you know who you are). The two best things about writing books are the people you meet and the freebies you get - and I hope there are a lot more of both in the years to come. The other good thing would be the money you make, but I can't quite give up my day job yet.

Anyway, the interesting thing is that people who left Africa some time ago still refer to modern day Zimbabwe by its former name - Rhodesia, which is cool by me. As is the case in Africa, new majority governments make it a priority (far higher than mudane things such as healthcare and housing) to change all the town and street names. This can make it quite confusing for a tourist who is given directions to turn right into Cecil Rhodes Avenue, only to later discover that it's now the Robert Mugabe Way or some such thing.

In Zimbabwe (or is that Rhodesia?) Salisbury became Harare; Fort Victoria became Massvingo; etc etc. It's happening in South Africa as we speak. Jan Smuts International Airport has now been renamed after Oliver Tambo. OK - you might say it's cool (or "right-on" if you're this sort of person) to make a political statement by changing the names of big things/towns named after prominent people, but it gets a little silly when a people who had no written language in the olden days change the name of a dorp (smallish town) such as Messina to 'Musina'. Think of how the money spent on street signing, council stationary, shop signs etc could have been better spent? Well that's enough of politics - almost.

Anyway, I guess how you refer to somewhere depends on what you grew up with, and whether you feel any need to start calling something by a new name. I (for my sins) can't quite bring myself to call Ayers Rock 'Uluru', which apparently is its proper name now.

Anyway, Leo the Rhodey is spot on (or pretty close to it) when it comes to his lekker accent and his turn of phrase. There's a few "howzits"; lots of "bru's" (slang for brother); a judicious use of the aforementioned "lekker" (Afrikaans for good); and a very nice "Howzit China" (hello mate, from the old cockney rhyming slang, "China Plate"). Leo also says "right", pronounced "raaaat" at the end of most sentences, which is a little grating, but fairly accurate.

Aside from the Zimabwe-Rhodesianisms, there are some other pearlers rolling out of Leonardo's be-whiskered laughing gear (that's Australian for mouth, since we're up to our Jatz crackers in the vernacular in this blog). By the by, although his beard looks like it's been stuck on, our Leo is starting to mature. He no longer looks like the 13-year-old boy who sailed of with the deliciously mature Kate Winslett on the Titanic - he could pass for about 21 in The Blood Diamond, although he's supposed to be 31.

Some of his other memorable lines include "Well, piss off then", when he discovers the hot girl is a journalist (brilliant stuff); and when a rebel leader introduces himself as "Captain Rambo" Leo's Danny Archer says; "Raaat, I've seen all your movies".

For the Land Rover buffs there are quie a few defenders in the movie, and Leo trashes a Pajero escaping from the baddies. Predictably it gets stuck in the bush and he and his comrades have to hoof it.

There's lots of gunplay, a little romantic tension, some excellent scenes with a Hind Gunship straffing the rebel diamond mine and, oh, yeah, some stuff about buying diamonds being bad.

Hear hear, I say. Too much money is spent on diamonds and jewellery in general in my opinion. Just ask Mrs B - her best friend is a Series III Land Rover and you could buy two of them for the price of the average wedding ring.