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Papers >> Arts >> Amistad Film Critique

In the 1830s and 1840s, the meaning of freedom to Americans differed from person to person just as much as it does today. It varied from being a white male who owned property who was very stuck in his idea of freedom, which meant political power and being allowed to do almost anything he could imagine. Black slaves who had no freedom had their own idea also. They dreamed of one day realizing his or her idea of freedom, which was to not be a slave. Along with freedom came the issue of equality. Even thought the two are completely different, they played a part in defining one another.
In the 1830s and 1840s blacks were not thought of as being equal to white Europeans and so were not given freedom in some places. They were thought more of as property and certainly you can’t free your gun or your house. So how could you free a slave? It was pretty much a messed up way of thinking back then, but it was all they knew. People can and do change. Changes in how people thought was evident in the movie Amistad.
Cinque the chosen spokesman for the Africans had a vivid real idea of freedom. He wanted to go home. It’s that simple. He had been taken by force from his home and family and place in a foreign place and was being held captive for something he did not understand. He did understand that some people were obviously against him and his people. He was destined to return home and he would obviously do anything to ensure his freedom.
In the beginning of the movie Roger Baldwin was so sure he had a can’t lose approach to winning the case. The blacks were merely property was his approach. Well it wasn’t the greatest approach but it was the defense’s approach. Though the course of the trials and visiting with the Africans Baldwin became human. He began to sort of connect with them as people and was definitely an abolitionist at the end of the movie.
John Quincy Adams was a funny fellow. He had been in government for quite some time, had been President, had old views, but this old dog learned new tricks. He at some parts of the movie looked down upon the case of the Africans. Thinking it not that important or of concern to him. He did continue to help Baldwin in his battles in the smaller court. Adams came to the rescue in the Supreme Court after further reviewing of the case and realizing as Baldwin did, that the Africans were people too. As people they were entitled to freedom.
The Spanish government played a role of an old civilization not willing to change, under the control of an adolescent, seeking to claim it’s rightful property. The British on the other hand showed a new way of thinking by outlawing slavery and defending slaves in Sierre Leone. The British Naval Officer aided in the defense of the Africans by interpreting the log of the notorious slave ship that I can not recall the name of.
I believe the verdict of the case in the lower court showed the compassion of that particular judge. Now for the verdict of the Supreme Court, I think the verdict was a penance or makeup for wrong doings of the past and the start of something that needed to be corrected in the judicial way of thought in America.
The abolitionist in the movie portrayed as weepers and mourners in the streets around the courthouse and jail we merely for effect. To show that there were some people who knew the true meaning of freedom, the true meaning of America. I don’t think they played that much of a role in the verdict or the court’s decisions because there weren’t any references to God or a natural right or of any displays or commotion in the court room.
I do feel that the release of the movie Amistad did have an effect on Americans. I believe it helped portray the struggles of a particular group of a large race of people who still are denied some things due to prejudice. This I’m sure made some people in this country think a little bit and maybe even be nice to the next couple of black people they ran into. I don’t however think it had a prominent impact on the way most people think or feel. Movies with content such as Amistad are usually made to help the cause of the people portrayed. So in that respect I’m sure the movie was a success in showing the black man’s struggle against the white man. I’m sure one day they’ll be a movie about the struggle to remove the rebel flag from the capitol building of certain Southern states.

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