Sunday, December 17, 2006

blood, bling and two trips to the bathroom

Last night, AK and I decided to see a movie on a whim, and I found myself at the 11:20 p.m. showing of Blood Diamond, Diet Coke in hand to keep me awake. Even though I’ve fallen asleep during late showings of some pretty riveting movies, I think that even sans Diet Coke, I couldn’t have nodded off to this one.

The movie tells the story of Sierra Leone’s warlord-ruled illegal diamond trade through the eyes of a cynical white smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio), a muckraking journalist with a thing for bad boys (Jennifer Connelly) and a local fisherman (Djimon Hounsou) who hopes to use his discovery of an immense pink diamond to save his family, which has been split apart by the rebel army.

It’s the sort of movie that follows all the rules of storytelling, some to very good effect, some not so much. It’s hard not to roll your eyes when the white couple’s sexual tension is given more screen time than the scenes in which Hounsou’s son is drugged and brainwashed by the rebels.

Yet the movie keeps the pandering to a minimum, and, more than that, I found myself willing to forgive a few unfortunate filmmaking choices because the incredibly powerful true story of the diamond trade is so compelling and so much in need of exposure. If just one couple listens to Blood Diamond instead of those annoying Robbins Brothers commercials this holiday season….

But my Diet Coke also proved very powerful, so I had to tear myself away from several gripping and horrific scenes to go to the bathroom. My head was full of men with machine guns storming through villages in the backs of trucks, hip hop blaring as the locals tried to run—so it was weird stepping into the cheerful, tastefully decorated lobby of the ArcLight.

On my first trip to the bathroom, another movie had just let out, and the lobby was full of a diverse but universally bored-looking bunch of men standing around with their arms crossed. Clearly, they were waiting for the their wives and girlfriends, who were in the bathroom. But my first thought was, Militia! They’re here—it’s all over!

On my second trip, I was busy thinking about how the awfulness of war-torn Africa is worse than just about all the other things I usually think of as awful. What can I do? I thought, sitting down on the toilet. I need to be more international in my thinking. How can I fix this? What can I join? Who can I tell?

I flushed. And the toilet just kept flushing. I jiggled the handle, and jiggled again, but the toilet was committed to its mission. Fuck, I thought. How am I supposed to save Africa if I can’t even stop this toilet from flushing?

On the way out of the theater, I approached the girl at the concession stand and said, “There’s a toilet that won’t stop flushing in the ladies’ room. It seems like it’s wasting a lot of water, so, I don’t know, maybe you can call maintenance or something?”

She said she would, and I congratulated myself on being the sort of person who didn’t let problems go unchecked. Or, at least, the sort of person who asked someone else to do something about them after watching the rest of my movie.


tlkaply said...

That's awesome, Cheryl. How CAN we save Africa if we can't stop the damn toilet from flushing?

Cheryl said...

You know what they say. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single flush.