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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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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

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A true story. 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 »

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Details

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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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Technical Specs

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Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The re-production of the schooner Amistad was built at the Mystic Seaport Museum, and some of the film was shot at the same location, specifically the scene where the interpreter is found by the defense lawyer. See more »

Goofs

There is a scene where the men are shown lying on their bunks and their heads are all moving to the rocking motion of the ship. However, there is a chain hanging nearby that is not moving at all. This is because the ship was in port when this scene was filmed and someone out of view was leading all the actors to move their heads to give the impression that the ship was sailing on the high seas. 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.
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Crazy Credits

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

Connections

Referenced in Making 'Saving Private Ryan' (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Timuyandya
Written by Debbie Allen, Chike Okpala, El Hadj Malik Sow, Sheriff Kargbo
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User Reviews

 
Another historic masterpiece from one of the greatest directors ever
27 May 2005 | by (Tessenderlo, Belgium) – See all my reviews

There is one thing that I've never understood about Hollywood. When it comes to historic and realistic movies, they have used about every possible subject. Think of the American Civil War, the Hollocaust, the Second World War, the Vietnam war,... Each of these historic subjects has been used in a movie at least once. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long as it is done properly and accurately, because these movies are often the only source of new knowledge for a lot of people once they have left school (and even at school they hate history classes because they don't seem to understand the importance of it). But why aren't there so many movies about the slave trade and the plantations? Are the studios afraid of that subject or are they so racist, that they have never been able to come to terms with the abolishment of slavery?

"Amistad" tells the story of a group of Africans who start a revolt against the crew of the slave ship La Amistad and get adrift for several weeks after this horrible event. Then they are discovered by some American marine officers, who bring the ship into harbor and hand over the slaves to the local authorities. Soon they have to stand trial for this revolt and the fact that they have murdered the crew. But a couple of honorable men, who want to end the slavery in the New World, will defend them with everything that is within their power ... even if that means that they will offend some other countries or start a civil war.

At the same time it's very easy and very hard to say what I liked about this movie. I liked almost everything about it, but explaining why will take some time. Let me start with the story on itself. The fact that it hasn't been told at least a dozen times makes it original, but doesn't make it easy to compare it to other similar movies of course. Still, the quality was more than OK and had a lot of variation to offer. It's clearly well-written with a good eye for detail and even though I'm normally not a fan of court room drama's, I must say that it didn't even bother me that a court room was the place where the biggest part of this movie was set. What I also liked was the acting. From people like Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins you can't expect anything else but a fine performance, but it was the rest of the cast that offered me a nice surprise. Djimon Hounsou for instance still isn't a house hold name, even though he has played in a few excellent movies like "Gladiator" and "In America", but once again he proves that he's a talented actor and I sure hope to see him in many more big productions soon.

Even though a large part of this movie was shot in a court room, it also offered plenty of other sets. You'll get to see the fort in Sierra Leone where the slaves were brought together to be shipped to the New World, you'll see a nice representation of the American cities of those days, you'll see the ships of that time... And perhaps it's the slave boat and all the scenes on it that were the most incredible. I don't think the horror of the slave trade was more obvious as it was in those scenes. They certainly aren't suited for people who can't stand the sight of blood or very graphic violence, but excluding them from this movie would not only be a shame, it would harm the sense of reality. And it's that sense of reality that makes this movie so special. Of course Steven Spielberg knows exactly how to make a movie feel as real as possible. Think of "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan", both movies that will always be in my list of the best movies I've ever seen, but with this movie he has proved that he can do more than telling a story situated in WWII.

In the end I can only say that this is a movie that every American and every European should see. The Americans should see it because the slaves ones were the reason why the plantations in the South prospered and the civil war was fought and the Europeans shouldn't miss it, for we should never forget that the slave trade will always be a dark page in our long history. This movie is for so many reasons worth to be seen (not once, but at least a couple of times), that it doesn't deserve anything less than an 8.5/10.


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