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.
Amistad is the name of a slave ship travelling 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 (Djimon Hounsou), who was a tribal leader in Africa, leads a mutiny and takes over the ship. They continue to sail, hoping to find their way back to Africa. Instead, they are misdirected and 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 (Sir Anthony Hopkins) makes an impassioned and eloquent plea for their release.Written by
M Parkinson, Sarasota, FL, USA
This movie prompted a lawsuit by writer Barbara Chase-Riboud, who alleged the screenplay for this movie plagiarized her book "Echo of Lions", a fictionalized account of the Amistad incident. The book had been pitched to Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Amblin executives met with Chase-Riboud, turned down that project, then made this movie. Amistad writer David Franzoni had previously been hired, by a different production company, to write a screenplay based explicitly on "Echo of Lions", and his Amidstad script replicated fictional elements, characters, and situations invented by Chase-Riboud. Spielberg's lawyer called the suit baseless, and disparaged the Chase-Riboud book, while Franzoni claimed he'd never read it. The suit was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount, on the condition the author make statements publicly supporting the movie. See more »
When the Africans are loading up on fresh water, an American ship cruises by with a long stream of water pouring from the side, presumably discharge from a pump or engine. The discharge is near the water line, it's not raining, and the sea is calm. Even under those conditions, the water on deck would flow over the side, not form a long stream. See more »
[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 »
The events depicted did not historically occur at Fort El Morro See more »
The board of film censors of Jamaica have excised the opening scenes, depicting a violent slave uprising on a ship, from all copies of the film released in Jamaican theatres. See more »
Dry Your Tears, Afrika
(Choral text of Dry Your Tears, Afrika)
Exerpted from the poem by Bernard Dadié See more »
A film unfairly compared to box office winners that should have received far more recognition.
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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