It’s impossible for me to objectively review Nothing Lasts Forever, the flashy new diamond documentary that will air this fall on Showtime. It’s full of people I know, conferences I’ve been to, and subjects I’ve spent decades writing about. There’s even a brief shot of me at one event, looking bored.
That said, here are my impressions, following a screening at BAM Rose Cinemas in New York City on June 26.
The film, directed by Jason Kohn (Manda Bala), is devoted to the lab-grown versus natural diamond debate, but it ultimately does both sides no favors. It’s clearly more hostile to natural diamonds, but it belittles lab-growns, too, dubbing them a “lie about a lie,” and “synthetics” so often that marketers might have to drag out that term again, as much as they hate it.
The film was exquisitely shot and edited and generally entertaining, though, at a few moments, it felt slow. Its least interesting stretches involved long takes of mundane visuals, like a box being opened, or a machine coming to life. Those played okay on the big screen, but might not hold viewers’ attention on a computer screen or a phone. (Aside from periodic screenings, like the one I attended in Brooklyn, the film is unavailable for viewing or streaming prior to its Showtime debut.)
One of the film’s stars, gemologist Dusan Simic, tells JCK that Kohn—who he counts as a friend (and vice versa)—did a “great” job with the film, noting that it got huge applause at the Berlin International Film Festival. But he admitted the film features some “brutal simplification.”
“When [on-screen commentators] talk about ‘truth’ and ‘lies,’ it is not a serious thing to discuss. It’s okay for entertainment. But to talk about seriously? Come on.”
Having seen both, I am not seeing much difference. If I had to sum up the film’s message, it would be “the diamond industry was created by marketing and will soon be destroyed.” All of which is in Showtime’s trailer.
The film’s other star is Aja Raden, the author, jewelry designer, and founder of Opinion Engineering, whose zippy one-liners made her an audience (and director) favorite. If Nothing Lasts Forever sometimes feels like a big Twitter fight, Raden has the best dunks.
“I liked that the movie didn’t make anyone look good,” Raden tells me. “A lot of documentaries fall into the trap of being commercials for an idea. [This] included different perspectives.”
My biggest beef with the film is that, despite giving a quick history of De Beers—including decades-old clips from its single-channel days—it misleads viewers into thinking De Beers’ monopoly is still intact. (At BAM, one post-film questioner asked Kohn about “the cartel.”)
When those long-ago clips were shot, De Beers’ market share was 80-90 percent. Today, it’s less than 25 percent. That’s a huge shift, which began 22 years ago. The diamond monopoly is over. That’s good. That matters.
The vintage footage noted that De Beers executives could not come to the United States because of the company’s antitrust issues. The film doesn’t supply more info on that topic, so the average viewer might think that’s still true. Yet, De Beers execs have regularly come to America for at least the last decade. The filmmakers probably saw them at the JCK shows they attended.
Nothing Lasts Forever never mentions either of those facts. By contrast, if you took a drink every time someone said “mixing,” you’d black out halfway through.
Of course, in this environment, pointing out that Alrosa is the world’s leading diamond producer isn’t exactly a win. But at least it’s true. To give viewers the impression that the diamond industry is still cartel-controlled, or that De Beers executives still can’t come to the United States, is, in the film’s parlance, a “lie about a lie.”
Kohn was unavailable for a full interview, but he did email a response on this issue, arguing that the end of the De Beers cartel “wasn’t relevant” to his story:
“Since this is a film that very much deals with the power of story-telling, it was important to show how De Beers was so successful in creating the ‘diamond dream.’ That information came out in one of our interviews and was visually depicted through vintage archival footage; it was a past-tense history of the company, essential to understanding how De Beers became the dominant voice in diamond marketing.
“One of the great challenges of telling any story is discovering what information is essential. How De Beers created their narrative and how that narrative has been maintained are obviously important to our story. Personally, I didn’t see how information about the events that changed De Beers’ percentage of market share was essential to understanding their actions regarding lab-grown diamonds.”
To be clear, I’m not suggesting the film should detail “events that changed De Beers’ market share”—which is a huge topic. I simply believe it should have communicated its market share has changed.
If a filmmaker is telling a true story about a subject, and they mention certain facts, they have an obligation to inform viewers that those facts have long changed, even if that hurts or complicates their story. And if they are not painting a true picture of the topic, then what are they doing?