Advanced Laboratory for Visual Anthropology

Illusions In Stone

2016 / 58 minutes / Directed by Brian Brazeal

Illusions in Stone tells the global story of the emerald trade. It is a story of hope, faith, danger and desire. It is a place where you will meet righteous thieves, reckless illegal miners, and religious scholars in an underground business. They are all united by their fascination with the green stones.

Our journey begins in the mines of Brazil, where workers face danger and uncertainty below ground and equally dangerous vice and temptation above ground. We find ourselves transported to Jaipur, India's pink city where the green gems are cut and polished. There, a deeply religious community holds a virtual monopoly on the stones from the mines of Brazil and Africa. They must balance their religious ideals with their participation in an international economy that is never quite legal. We learn of their dealings with illegal miners in the Southern African nation of Zambia, who chase a dream of emerald wealth. This dream all too often evaporates into lavish expenditure and the return to hopeful destitution. We meet the members of an Israeli syndicate who value honesty above all else and who partnered with the smugglers that looted 90% of the production of their mines. We see some of the finest emeralds that have ever come out of the ground and learn that they came from Colombia where the ground around the emerald mines has all too often been soaked with blood. We meet the miners and the clergymen who waged peace in the war-torn emerald zone and learn that even peace can have unexpected consequences.

Their stories are tied together by the thread of hope, by the green dream that calls them back to the mines and markets, the dream the often proves to be an illusion.

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