An award-winning University-made film, chronicling the personal stories of those involved in the diamond mining trade, was premiered to policy-makers at the United Nations headquarters in New York last week.
The 33-minute documentary, a collaboration between Dr Roy Maconachie from Bath’s Centre for Development Studies, and Simon Wharf, filmmaker from the University’s Audio Visual Unit, traces the journey of artisanal diamonds from mine shaft in Kono District, Sierra Leone, right through to the shop window in Antwerp.
Shot on location in West Africa and Europe in 2017-18, the film has already gained plaudits around the world and has been screened in multiple locations, including various film festivals. In April it scooped the national Learning on Screen Best Educational Film Award 2019.
Part of a project supported by US-based philanthropic organisation Humanity United, the film reveals the huge disparities in wealth between those at the top of the artisanal diamond value chain and those toiling the ground to extract diamonds at the bottom, back in Sierra Leone. Its aim has been to raise awareness of how the perpetuation of the informal nature of the sector maintains these inequalities, by telling the personal stories of those involved.
The film is now being used by Dr Maconachie to highlight to international policymakers some of the multiple challenges that exist and to push for higher-level action to create a more sustainable situation. This work was featured recently in the Times Higher Education.
On presenting to the UN Dr Maconachie, from Bath’s Centre for Development Studies, said: "It’s been a great privilege to present our work in such an influential international forum. And we are thrilled that the film has been so well received and sparked such lively debate.
"The experience provides further testimony to the power of film as an innovative methodology for giving voice to typically marginalised participants, while at the same reaching out to a wider non-academic audience to raise awareness of some of the biggest global questions facing us in the 21st century. In the process, we have created some exciting new partnerships with the International Labour Organisation, the World Council of Peoples for the United Nations , and the United Nations Department of Global Communications."
Filmmaker from the University’s Audio Visual Unit with the Department of Computing Services Simon Wharf added: "The journey this project has taken from inception through to screening at the United Nations is testament to the impact of Roy’s research and the power of film to convey it. It was incredibly rewarding on both a professional and personal level and I look forward to seeing where the film can take us next."
Learn more about the film and the wider research project through this case study https://www.bath.ac.uk/case-studies/unearthing-the-voices-of-the-mine/.