A fictionalized account of a bonsai tree that lived with the Yamaki family in Hiroshima, Japan, for more than 300 years before being donated to the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., in 1976 as a gesture of friendship and peace to celebrate the American Bicentennial.
The memoir and the movie have only scratched the surface. Black Man’s Grave tells what happened to place the boy-turned-soldier in jeopardy and why Sierra Leone’s diamonds acquired their bloody tinge. Meet the greedy politicians who hijacked a fledgling democracy, the rebels who brought them down, and the villagers who struggled to survive the country’s chaotic descent. The cast includes Sierra Leone’s “big man,” Siaka Stevens; RUF leader Foday Sankoh, whose grandfatherly demeanor belied the viciousness with which he sought to impose his “revolution”; and one who aspired to the big man role, Charles Taylor from next-door Liberia. Taylor’s support for Sierra Leone’s rebel war expanded from initial hostility toward Stevens’s handpicked successor into a commercial venture that supplied arms in exchange for diamonds. In an offshoot of that pernicious trade, links between Sierra Leone’s diamonds and al Qaeda have been traced. The revelations of Black Man’s Grave help us understand the frustrations that simmer throughout much of the third world and threaten a peaceful future.