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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.

Favorite Quotation:  
Cinque: “Give 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! 


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