Amistad

Cast
Theodore Joadson: Morgan Freeman
Cinque: Djimon Hounsou
John Quincy Adams: Anthony Hopkins
Roger Baldwin: Matthew McConaughey
Martin Van Buren: Nigel Hawthorne
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by David Franzoni. Running time: 145 minutes. Rating Rated R (scenes of slavery, nudity and brutality).

Central Theme
A freeborn human being cannot be considered the property of another and has the right of insurrection over any who would lay such a claim on him.

Story
A sometimes fictional reconstruction of a true story concerning a group of slaves from Sierra Leone, who overthrew their captors on the Spanish vessel, La Armistad, only to enter the American legal and highly politicized system which seemed prepared to return them to their captors. Cinque, their leader, finds help from a property law attorney, Christian abolitionists and none other then former President John Quincy Adams himself. The case holds special interest to Southerners, who are threatening civil war over slavery, and to Spain’s Queen Isabelle II, who considers a failure of the US courts to rule in her favor, a threat to the economic well being of her throne, sustained as it was by slavery. Ultimately, it is not the immorality of slavery or rights to freedom declared in the US Declaration of Independence that wins the day, but the fact that these particular slaves were freeborn (as opposed to being born to enslaved) and entitled to the freedom accorded by their own sovereign nation. The positive impact of Christianity is portrayed through: Christians advocating the abolition of slavery, a judge who prays earnestly before delivering an unexpected decision in favor of the slaves, a slave who learns the gospel through looking at the pictures in the Bible. Spielberg includes a number of visuals portraying the cross, including a shot with Cinque, on his way to court, seeing three masts rising high in the sky like three crosses on Golgatha.

Beliefs num
–Abolitionists believed slavery is immoral and must be overturned completely.
–Their opponents feared that the end of slavery would mean economic and societal ruin.
–The Queen of Spain believed she should control the courts while the US system theoretically provided for separation and equality of the executive and judicial branches.
–Cinque believed he could literally call on his ancestors for help, while John Quincy Adams called on the founding fathers through their words as recorded in the Declaration of Independence.
–One defender of slavery points out that Africans themselves were sometimes selling Africans into slavery and that therefore the practice of slavery was justifiable.
–A few good people can make a huge difference.
–America is a nation of laws and the system relies on judges who rule based on law and justice not political suasion.
–Slavery destroyed the lives of individuals and their families and there is no possible justification for it.
–Africans possess a rich heritage and their descendents in America often represent a collective memory of the wrongs imposed on their forefathers.
— One slave gained a deep affection and appreciation for Jesus simply by looking at the pictures in a Bible and piecing together a storyline of history’s most remarkable character.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–How could the drafters of the Declaration of Independence believe in the essential rights of liberty for all and yet deny it to the slaves?
–How could the personal and economic benefits of slavery outweigh the right to freedom?
–Why is the involvement of American and British Christians in the abolitionist movement such a seldom told story?
–Shouldn’t these historically verified actions by Christians on behalf of justice and in opposition to slavery be taught to kids in our schools?
–What issues of injustice should Christians be involved in today?
–If the best story wins, shouldn’t the story of Jesus, as recounted through the slave be the ultimate winner?

Provocative Quotes byline
–With three to four million negroes in America already, why on earth should I concern myself with these forty-four?
==President Martin Van Buren
–Sir, there remains but one task undone. One vital task the fathers left to their sons before their 13 colonies could precisely be called free. That task is crushing slavery.
==Abolitionist Theodore Joadson to John Quincy Adams
–The present issue at hand is the wrongful transport of illegally procured goods.
==Roger Baldwin
–It is our duty as abolitionists and Christians to save these people.
==Abolitionist Mr. Tappan to Baldwin
–If they are entertainers, why do they look so miserable?
==Cinque of the Christian abolitionists singing Amazing Grace
–In a courtroom, whoever tells the best story wins — You have proven what they are, but what you don’t know is who they are.
==John Quincy Adams advising Baldwin
–Give us Free! Give us Free! Give us Free!
==Cinque chants to the judge
–These people have suffered. They have suffered more than us.
He was born and it changed everything.
Whoever he goes he is followed by the sun.
Here he is healing people with his hands.
Protecting them.
Being brought children.
He could walk on the sea.
But then something happened.
He was captured.
Accused on some crime.
Here he is with his hands tied.
Do you want to see how he died?
His people took him down from this thing.
They took him to a cave.
They wrapped him in clothes just like we do
They thought he was dead.
But he appeared again and spoke with them
And then he rose into the sky.
This is where the soul goes when it dies.
This is where we will go when they kill us.
It doesn’t look so bad.
==Slave Yarmu explaining the pictures in the Bible to Cinque
–To destroy slavery will destroy us as a people. They believe we are immoral and inferior. We all know what will happen if they are set free. They are the rulers and we are the slaves. But not without a fight.
==Southerner John Calhoun to President Van Buren
–We aren’t going in there alone. Our ancestors will be there. I will call on the past, far back to the beginning of time and beg them to help us. They must come. For at this moment I am the whole reason they have ever existed at all.
==Cinque to John Quincy Adams
–Our treaty of 1795 with Spain is inapplicable. They are not slaves and therefore cannot be considered merchandise, but rather free individuals with certain legal and moral rights, including the right to engage in insurrection against those who deny them their freedom. Therefore it is the opinion of this court, with one dissenting vote, that they should be released at once, and if they so choose, to be returned to their homes in Africa.
==Supreme Court Justice announcing Armistad ruling
–What you told me to tell them.
==John Quincy Adams explaining to Cinque what he said in defense of the slaves, having called the ancestry of the Declaration of Independence to bear witness on Cinque’s behalf.
–Thank you Baldwin
==Cinque to Baldwin

Posted in Movies, Staublog in December 4, 1997 by | No Comments »

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