Thursday, June 2, 2011

Amistad Movie Review

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Amistad Review

Steven Spielberg’s Amistad was a compelling movie made with dignity. It also had the

support of an outstanding cast. Spielberg once again took on the challenge of producing a sad

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story without the common heroes that we are accustomed to in our more typical films. Although

their are changes in the film, the basic facts are in order. These changes are only meant to

enhance the film’s dramatic force.

The Amistad involves a group of some 40 Africans who were captured and placed on La

Amistad. However, they revoluted and escaped from thier Spanish owners by killing them. The

slave ship ended up being brought into New London by the U.S.S Washington. After being

captured, they were arrested and imprisoned. They were charged with mutiny and murder.

In trial, a lower court accuited the Africans. However that ruling was applealed to the

Supreme Court. The man behind this decision was President Van Buren. John Quincy Adams

defended the Africans along with a lawyer named Baldwin. Together they won the trial and freed

the Africans.

Speilberg’s movie pays much attention to the court seens. This enhances the stories

passion and suspense. Speilberg also presents scenes from the Africans point of view. These

ideas are not factual, but do show how some of the whites “rituals” are odd to the Africans.

Although Speilberg had the basic facts of the Amistad in order, he did use “dramatic

license.” A dramatic license is a term giving to film makers meaning that they can or may

miscontstrue the actualy history of the event in order to produce a sucessful and entertaining film.

Some minor details were altered for the film. An example of this are the characters Saw

and Beliva. They are completely fictional. Furthermore, no one knows the exact story of what

happened to Cinque during the middle passage. Another minor detail is that the case of the

Amistad spanned over the course of presidencies, not one. Van Buren lost his job, William

Harrison died 4 days after taking office therefore leaving John Tyler as president when the

Amistads finally went home.

Major points were also left out in the Amistad film. One is the fact that Connecticut was a

slave state in 18. When the Amistad was captured by the U.S.S Washington, it was towed to

New London instead of the much closer New York Harbor. This was because Gedney would be

able to double his claim in Connecticut for the slaves and possesions because it was a slave state.

Another major point left out in the film was the fact that there were treaties. Pickneys

treaty, which is cited by Spielberg, said the Africans were cargo. However, another treaty proved

to help the defense greater than Pickney’s treaty. This treaty was not stated in the film. It said

that abducting slaves from Africa was illegal. Spain, Britain and the United States signed the


Also, Speilberg failed to characterize the other Amistad Africans in the film. Cinque was

the chief of the Amistad Africans and the hero of the film. However, Africans like Grabeu, and

Burnah were never characterzied in the film. Grabeu was the nd chief of the Africans and

Burnah became fluent in English and helped with translation. These important Africans were

never given names in the film and were simply just faces of the film.

Judge Andrew T. Judson was a huge racist. However, he was appointed as judge for the

trail. This detail was barely touched upon in the film. Previous to the Amistad case, Judson

helped get the Black Law passed. This law stated that black people could not go to school in the

state without the written consent of the townspeople and town council where the school was


In conclusion, the Amistad film did prove to be a moving and touching re-telling of the

tragic tale of the African slave ship. Speilberg did use a dramatic license, but only to show the

heartbreaking in the best possible light.

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