Amistad is NOT a true story. It is based upon a true story. And, it is an excellent film.
As always, Steven Spielberg has directed a visual masterpiece. Debbie Allen has inspired a fictional but classic look at African history. I truly enjoyed this film.
The casting was excellent. D’jimon Hounsou, who portrayed Cinque, was almost as beautiful as the actual warrior himself. The movie evoked spiritual emotions that I have not felt since I viewed “Sankofa”.
I was deeply moved by the graphic scenes of the torturous Middle Passage. Distractingly absent were any scenes of the frequent rapes which occurred. A few brief flashes looked more like peculiar tangos than brutal rapes.
I was disturbed by the references to drawings of a white Jesus and other eurocentric religious references. I longed to see similar scenes of African religion. Certainly, these captives prayed to their own African Gods and performed many native religious rituals etc.
I was especially perturbed by a line spoken in reference to a bible. I paraphrase, “Their suffering is worse than our own.” Oppression should never be reduced to a contest. But. if so, and if accurate, no people have ever suffered as brutally, thoroughly, globally, and perpetually as African people. Our African Holocaust is STILL ongoing! Racist crack laws navigate our newest Middle Passage. The prison industrial complex is our newest plantation. The United States’ legal system and capitalist elitism are history’s most LETHAL slave catchers.
I loved how this film exposed the hypocrisy of pseudo-christians. Even today, far too many activists prefer martyrs over revolution. Many still seek to be heroic exclusively overseas, while they ignore genocide next door.
This film briefly revealed missionaries who returned to Africa with the rebels. In reality, four American missionaries were sent to establish a mission in Mendeland. Typically, even as the U. S. freed their African bodies, they sought to secure the enslavement of their African minds via masters of a white supremacist religion.
I was appalled by how the U. S. legal system was depicted as righteous and efficient. In reality, the African warriors on the Amistad were incarcerated in August of 1839. They did not set sail for home until November of 1841.
President Martin Van Buren longed to avoid ANY trial and rushed to return the Africans to Cuba. Even as Cinque testified in court, the U. S. Navy schooner “Grumpus” sailed for New Haven Harbor. It was secretly dispatched by the White House on a callous and racist mission to immediately take all of the Africans to Cuba, after their anticipated legal defeat.
I was infuriated by how the British were made to appear so angelic and humanitarian. In reality, the Portuguese and other Europeans INITIATED the uniquely brutal slavery of Africans in 1442!!! By 1664, the English RULED the slave trade internationally!!! The racist treachery they set in motion CONTINUES, as Africans are STILL globally enslaved financially, mentally, socially, and spiritually as you read these words!!!
Hollywood films NEVER tell all of ANY story. For the TRUTH
about the Amistad
crew, research it yourself. Read:
Mutiny on the Amistad: The saga of a slave revolt and its impact on American abolition, law and diplomacy by Howard Jones
Black Odyssey: The case of the slave ship Amistad by Mary Cable
The Amistad Revolt 1839: The slave uprising aboard
the Spanish schooner
by Helen Kromer
As expected, the white characters dominate this film. We learn more about a fictionalized John Quincy Adams than we do about Cinque. Just as in the flms “Dances with Wolves”, “Ghosts of Mississippi”, and “Mississippi Burning”, the white supremacy of Hollywood mandates that the stories of all persons of color be told as sub-plots to white stars. Even in Black themes, central Black characters are routinely relegated to backdrops for great white hopes.
In reality, Adams was heroic by default. Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. recently wrote ("Amistad Rehabilitates a President"): "[Adams] was an effective president who served from 1825-1829. Seeking a new public role, he won election, in 1830, from Massachusetts to the House of Representatives. He was 63. There he rebuilt his reputation as a crusader against slavery, a defender of free speech, and a vociferous opponent of [Andrew] Jackson's policies removing Indians from their lands...Adams had his flaws and prejudices...a new biography by Paul Nagel fully recounts his vanities, insecurities, and grudges. Adams came slowly to his opposition to slavery. The cause appealed to him, in part, because it provided a way of getting back at his enemies who were on the wrong side of this issue."
The Amistad’s Spanish crew captured 53 Africans. There were initially 49 men and four children, three of whom were little girls. Ten died before the ship reached Long Island, New York. Some starved, others were killed during the mutiny, others drank toxic medicine found on the cargo hold to quench their thirsts. During the arduous and tedious legal battles, four more were slain by disease, and one more drowned; possibly suicidally, due to weariness and depression. Only 35 of the 53 original Africans who rebelled made it back to Africa. I was deeply saddened to see none of these stories in this film.
My favorite scene in this film is when a chained Cinque disrupts the courtroom tedium by standing and screaming “Gives us free!!!”. It is a haunting scene because we Africans are STILL captive, STILL screaming, STILL institutionally chained, and STILL crying out for justice and freedom globally...
Our collective trials have yet to end. Our journeys are still incomplete. Our own revolutions are yet to come.
I highly recommend Amistad. See this classic film today. View it with your third eye. And, study the true story it is based upon immediately.