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Amistad (1997)

In 1839, the revolt of Mende captives aboard a Spanish owned ship causes a major controversy in the United States when the ship is captured off the coast of Long Island. The courts must decide whether the Mende are slaves or legally free.

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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 38 nominations. See more awards »

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Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Secretary John Forsyth
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Yamba
Abu Bakaar Fofanah ...
Fala
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Calderon
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Derrick N. Ashong ...
Buakei
Geno Silva ...
Ruiz
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Storyline

Amistad is the name of a slave ship traveling from Cuba to the U.S. in 1839. It is carrying a cargo of Africans who have been sold into slavery in Cuba, taken on board, and chained in the cargo hold of the ship. As the ship is crossing from Cuba to the U.S., Cinque, who was a tribal leader in Africa, leads a mutiny and takes over the ship. They continue to sail, hoping to find help when they land. Instead, when they reach the United States, they are imprisoned as runaway slaves. They don't speak a word of English, and it seems like they are doomed to die for killing their captors when an abolitionist lawyer decides to take their case, arguing that they were free citizens of another country and not slaves at all. The case finally gets to the Supreme Court, where John Quincy Adams makes an impassioned and eloquent plea for their release. Written by M Parkinson, Sarasota, FL, USA

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Freedom is not given. It is our right at birth. But there are some moments when it must be taken. See more »

Genres:

Drama | History

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some scenes of strong brutal violence and some related nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

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Release Date:

25 December 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Amistad - Das Sklavenschiff  »

Box Office

Budget:

$36,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$4,661,866 (USA) (12 December 1997)

Gross:

$44,175,394 (USA) (3 April 1998)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sir Anthony Hopkins astounded the crew by delivering the entire seven page courtroom speech in a single take. Steven Spielberg was so in awe, he couldn't bring himself to call him Tony, and insisted on addressing him as Sir Anthony throughout the shoot. See more »

Goofs

While Secretary Forsythe talks with President Van Buren about the dire political consequences of the Amistad Africans being acquitted and suggests dismissing the jury and replacing the judge, there is a bowl of water on the desk at which Van Buren is sitting. During the conversation, the water in the bowl inexplicably changes from clear to dark (presumably its purpose is to clear out the unused ink from quill-pens when Van Buren is done using them, to prevent the hollow part of the quill from getting mucked up with dried ink), then back to clear. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Ruiz: [to Pedro Montes] That one wants us to sail them back. That one thinks he can sail all the way back without us.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The events depicted did not historically occur at Fort El Morro See more »

Connections

Featured in The 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Dry Your Tears, Afrika
(Choral text of Dry Your Tears, Afrika)
Exerpted from the poem by Bernard Dadié
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A film unfairly compared to box office winners that should have received far more recognition.
10 December 1998 | by (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

I do not attend more than a handful of movies a year at a theatre. I rent far more videos, Amistad being one of them. As I recall, Amistad did not wow the theatrical audiences big-time. But the expression "big-time" seems to indicate numbers of dollars and attendees. I am also a big fan of Anthony Hopkins and remember him as a compelling actor long before his Oscar role. I believe that he and the African actor Djimon Hounsou should have been seriously considered for acting awards. I don't recall that any were given or even suggested. The cinematography, set decoration, lighting, and editing were extraordinary. I was reminded that interior spaces in the 1830's were not garishly lit Hollywood sets with dramatic shadows. Perhaps the costuming was a bit overdone. Many of the actors appeared "dressed". The most emotionally devastating episodes for me were the barbaric transporting and drowning of the slaves. I literally held my hands over my face as these scenes unfolded. I hope this film lives on to become a classic. My respect for Spielberg's artistry has been taken to another level. Other viewers have commented on static qualities of this film. Well, folks, This was not "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "Judgement at Nuremberg"; it was historic filmmaking in more than one way. It was accurate, literate, and not politically correct or incorrect. Bravo, Dreamworks!


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