The White Diamond

"We can realize our dreams. It just requires a little bit of determination." So says Dr. Graham Dorrington, an aerospace engineer and professor at Queen Mary, University of London. Like most people, Dr. Dorrington has often dreamt of flying high over town and country; only Dr. Dorrington finds himself in the unique position of making our idle fancies his...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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"We can realize our dreams. It just requires a little bit of determination." So says Dr. Graham Dorrington, an aerospace engineer and professor at Queen Mary, University of London. Like most people, Dr. Dorrington has often dreamt of flying high over town and country; only Dr. Dorrington finds himself in the unique position of making our idle fancies his reality. Since 1992, Dorrington has been hard at work developing a lightweight, easily maneuverable airship — sort of a helium-filled miniblimp — that would capable of exploring Earth's last unspoiled frontier: the rich, biodiverse canopies of the world's rain forests. Having at last received enough funding for a cinematographic expedition, Dorrington packs up all the necessary parts and, with filmmaker Werner Herzog and his DP in tow, flies to Guyana. Once settled in the middle of the dense South American jungle, Dorrington and his enthusiastic indigenous crew build the unexpectedly beautiful flying machine the natives, many of whom toil in Brazilian diamond mines, dub the "white diamond" on account of it's unique teardrop shape. Barring a few early mishaps, the ship is soon airborne, and yet with each success, Dorrington is reminded of a horrible failure that occurred 11 years earlier on an expedition in the rainforests of Sumatra. Dorrington and the acclaimed wildlife cinematographer Dieter Plage were testing an airship similar to the White Diamond that they hoped would enable Plage to film high above the treetops when Plage was suddenly killed in a gruesome accident. The ultimate success of the White Diamond might in some small way make sense of Plage's death, but Dorrington knows the burden of the responsibility he feels might never lift from his shoulders. It's hard not to think of Herzog's audacious FITZCARRALDO (1982), in which an similarly haunted European visionary is driven against all odds to realize his mad dream in the South American jungles (at one point Herzog even goes so far as to unkindly refer Dorrington's project as a "folly," much to the good doctor's chagrin), the production of which drove Herzog himself to attempt the impossible: dragging a 320 ton steamship over a mountain. But while Dorrington himself has later acknowledged that not all aspects of the final film are "entirely accurate documentary," Herzog never compromises Dorrington's expedition to service his own jungle fantasia, not even when he bullies his way into the gondola for the aircraft's first successful flight. In the end, Herzog's has produced an intoxicating dream of a film that speaks to the daydreamer in all of us, and as such is in perfect keeping with Dorrington's own very personal vision.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: R
  • Review: "We can realize our dreams. It just requires a little bit of determination." So says Dr. Graham Dorrington, an aerospace engineer and professor at Queen Mary, University of London. Like most people, Dr. Dorrington has often dreamt of flying high over town… (more)

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