Description of Film:
Steven Spielberg (director of Jurassic Park,
Schindler's List, and A.I) directs this sweeping,
graphic, and gripping, true story of the plight
faced by a group of West Africans who take over
an illegal slave trading ship, the Amistad.
Following their bold leader, Cinque (Djmon Hounsou,
Beauty Shop, Gladiator), they arise and fight
for their freedom. They are tried for this act
in the American court system in the years of
1839-1840. Although they are confronted with
a prejudiced judicial system, they are given
the assistance of a young, ambitious lawyer,
Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey, Failure to Launch,
The Wedding Planner). Theodore Joadson (Morgan
Freeman, Driving Miss Daisy, Glory, Shawshank
Redemption, Million Dollar Baby), a black, former
slave, also comes to their aid. Their case is
fought in court and won! However, a number of
powerful people do not want the Africans to
have their freedom, so they appeal the court’s
verdict. The case then was tried before the
Supreme Court. In the end, two presidents square
off. President Martin Van Buren takes action
on the behalf of the South and Queen Isabella
of Spain (who is attempting to claim the West
Africans as Spain’s “property”).
Former President John Quincy Adams (Anthony
Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs, Nixon) defends
the North and the West Africans. This last fight
in court leads to the vibrant, tumultuous ending
in which the Africans are granted their freedom,
at long last.
Amistad’s screen writer was David Franzoni.
This movie is rated R for violence, graphic
nudity, and mature themes.
Why I Recommend This Film:
The story of the Amistad and its passengers
is true. And, though the film is rated R, it
is a story very much worth telling and worth
thinking about. It is brilliantly directed and
the rich cast brings together a tapestry of
talent. A great deal of care was taken in staging
the film, so it is very believable. It has a
piercing point regarding right and wrong and
what sometimes must be risked to fight for it.
As you might suspect from a Steven Spielberg
film, this film is of high quality!
Why This Film is Important:
This film questions the structure of our
judicial systems. It also explains why some
people do the things that they do. President
Martin van Buren was far more concerned with
being re-elected President than we can about
the minute details regarding the fate of a boat
load of black West Africans. He did whatever
would get him re-elected and didn’t care
about the Africans’ lives. This film makes
an important statement about the power of motives.
Was Martin van Buren really a bad person or
was he looking to better himself and just ignorant
about the events going on around him? This film
also shows just how destructive ignorance can
be. People just assumed that the Africans were
stupid, violent, and uncivilized. Yet, they
were not. They just came from a different culture
and wanted the freedom to return to their land.
This film’s story provides even more of
an incentive for us to educate ourselves and
learn to be more accepting of difference.
Cinque: “Give us....us free!”
Even though Cinque has been treated horribly
by the American judicial system, he still reaches
across barriers and learns a few words of a
new language to express his point that, deep
down inside, he and the Americans are the same.
They both want their freedom! AMAZING!