Film review Amistad

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Filmreview: Amistad

Overviewof the film Amistad

Amistadis a historical film that was produced in the year 1997. The film isbased on a true story of a number of slaves (about 44) who arecaptured in Sierra Leon and transported to Cuba. From the true story,the slaves were captured in1841 and boarded the slave ship named LaAmistad (Elber 1). The Mende tribesmen, who had been abducted gaincontrol of the ship, kill all captors, and spares Spanish navigators.The captured slaves believe that the spared navigators will sail themback to Africa, but the navigators deceive the slaves by taking themto the United States. The ship is stopped by the U.S. Navy officers,who arrest the African captives and imprisons them as runaway slaves.This initiates a legal battle where Baldwin, a lawyer who is hired byAbolitionist Tappan and associates files a case to rescue the blackslaves. The court ruling favors the blacks, but an appeal is made.John Quincy, the U.S. President gives a plea that leads to therelease of the captives, which ends the legal battle.

Analysisof image of characters

Thedirector of the film, Steven Spielberg, uses images of differentcharacters to depict the transition from one state to another. Cinqueis one of the main characters, who act as the leader of the Africancaptives. The film illustrates how Cinque was ripped from hisambitions and life by being separated from his family and the farm(Elber 1). This illustrates how slavery destroyed the families andthe lives of victims.

RogerBaldwin acts as a real estate attorney. He then takes on the case ofthe African captives, where he changes from a white American who seeslaves a property to an ardent abolitionist. Baldwin gives an imageof how many Americans started seeing African slaves as human beingsafter seeing their sufferings, which increased the number ofabolitionists in the U.S.

AlthoughLewis Tappan acts as an advocate of the anti-slavery groups in thefavor of the African captives, his major role in the film is to showthe power of the media in influencing the public debate through hisnewspaper, The Emancipator.

TheodoreJoadson is a black American Abolitionist and a former slave. He isone of the African Americans who understood the pain of slaverythrough experience first experiences. This motivates him to fight forthe freedom of the African captives.

VanBuren is a U.S. president who is seeking to be re-elected and onlydecides to get involved in the case after realizing that its fatecould influence the outcome of elections (Elber 1). He is used in thefilm to give the image of the U.S. politicians who supportedanti-slavery campaigns, not because they were willing, but acted asspineless compromises to advance their political career.

QuincyAdams is a former president, who makes a plea for the release ofcaptives. Since he is a president, he is depicted as true and a moralleader who defended slaves without expecting returns. There areseveral characters that have been added in the film to make itcomplete and facilitate dramatic effect.


Thefilm Amistad has a few accurate historical incidents and manyhistorical inaccuracies. The most accurate portion of the film is theopening scene that shows Cinque’s nail-aided get away. The bloodkillings that follow are also accurate to some extent. For example,the captain, Ferrar, and the cook, Celestino, died after beingattacked by captives led by Cinque. One of the incidents ofhistorical inaccuracy occurs when the film depicts the case onslavery as a domestic issue while history shows that slavery in theAtlantic had been outlawed by the international treaty (Foner 2).Therefore, it was inaccurate to depict the entire case and slavery asa domestic issue. The scene in which President Van Buren is seencampaigning in a train tour is inaccurate because history shows thatpresidents of those times did not do campaigns. Although the filmindicates that the Supreme Court reversed the decision made by thelower court, which was accepted, it is inaccurate to state that theslaves were returned to Africa. By then, people who arrived in theU.S. as free people could not be deported by the government (TheSupreme Court 1).

Apersonal perspective

Althoughthe film, Amistad, has numerous historical inaccuracies, it gives anoverview of the struggle for the freedom of the people of color inthe U.S. However, this picture can only be possible when the viewertakes the film from its face value without paying much attention tohistorical details. Some of the characters who changed theirperception of slaves as property to human beings indicate transitionin the American culture, which is based on the premise of the “freeworld”. An example of these characters is Roger Baldwin, which seeslaves as property at the start of the film, but changes later andstart fighting for their rights with a lot of determination andpassion. Although the film is dominated by scenes of legal strugglesand African captives who have been introduced into a new culture, itsconclusion support the supports the basic principles of the Americanculture. The decision of the white lawyers (such as Baldwin) tosupport the back abolitionists indicates the continued acceptance ofcultural diversity and the willingness of the people from differentraces to respect each other.

Inconclusion, the film Amistad can be considered as a historical drama,although it has several scenes that are inconsistent with historicalnarratives. It gives an overview of the struggle for the freedom ofthe minority, especially the enslaved blacks in the U.S. It depictsthe continued acceptance of diversity and the consideration ofAfricans as human beings, and not property.


Elber,R. Amistad. EbertDigital, LLC.2015. Web. 21 August 2015.

Foner,E. The Amistad case in fact and film. HistoryMatters.1998. Web. 21 August 2015.

TheSupreme Court. The United States, appellants, v. the libellants andclaimants of the schooner Amistad, her tackle, apparel, andfurniture, together with her cargo, and the Africans mentioned anddescribed in the several libels and claims, appellees. TheSupreme Court of the U.S.January 1841. Web. 21 August 2015.