'Diamonds,' 'Ghosts' blaze documentary trail

Directly on the heels of the 2006 film “Blood Diamond,” the History Channel presented “Blood Diamonds,” an uncompromising look at the brutal diamond trade in Sierra Leone. Portions of the documentary are hard to watch, such as when a woman describes losing both of her hands to warlords. But in spite of its grim nature, voters will be hard-pressed not to respond to the film’s poignancy.

Almost equally as chilling — and relevant — is HBO’s “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib,” a sober account of the abuses at the infamous military prison in Iraq. One solider in the film calls the prison “a combination of ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘The Shining.’ ”

These projects are offset by lighter fare: “AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Cheers: America’s Most Inspiring Movies,” “Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed” and “Brando.” TCM’s highly entertaining “Brando” — featuring a wonderful array of talking heads — is a dark horse, but it’s hard to overlook “Blood Diamonds” and “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib,” both balanced, urgent and haunting.

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