Amistad (film)

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Amistad
Amistad-Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteven Spielberg
Produced byDebbie Allen
Steven Spielberg
Colin Wilson
Written byDavid Franzoni
StarringMorgan Freeman
Anthony Hopkins
Djimon Hounsou
Matthew McConaughey
Nigel Hawthorne
Stellan Skarsgård
Harry Blackmun
Anna Paquin
Music byJohn Williams
CinematographyJanusz Kamiński
Edited byMichael Kahn
Production
company
Distributed byDreamWorks Pictures
Release dates
  • December 10, 1997 (1997-12-10)
Running time
154 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$36 million
Box office$44,229,441
 
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Not to be confused with La Amistad.
Amistad
Amistad-Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteven Spielberg
Produced byDebbie Allen
Steven Spielberg
Colin Wilson
Written byDavid Franzoni
StarringMorgan Freeman
Anthony Hopkins
Djimon Hounsou
Matthew McConaughey
Nigel Hawthorne
Stellan Skarsgård
Harry Blackmun
Anna Paquin
Music byJohn Williams
CinematographyJanusz Kamiński
Edited byMichael Kahn
Production
company
Distributed byDreamWorks Pictures
Release dates
  • December 10, 1997 (1997-12-10)
Running time
154 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$36 million
Box office$44,229,441

Amistad is a 1997 historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the true story of the 1839 mutiny aboard the slave ship La Amistad, during which Mende tribesmen abducted for the slave trade managed to gain control of their captors' ship off the coast of Cuba, and the international legal battle that followed their capture by a U.S. revenue cutter. The case was ultimately resolved by the United States Supreme Court in 1841.

Morgan Freeman, Nigel Hawthorne, Anthony Hopkins, Djimon Hounsou, and Matthew McConaughey had starring roles. David Franzoni's screenplay was based on the book Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy (1987), by the historian Howard Jones.

Plot[edit]

Amistad is the name of a slave ship traveling from Cuba to the U.S. in 1839. It is carrying a cargo of Africans captured in Sierra Leone who have been sold into slavery in Cuba, taken on board, and chained in the cargo hold of the ship. As the ship is crossing from Cuba to the U.S., Cinqué, a leader of the Africans, leads a mutiny and takes over the ship. The mutineers spare the lives of two Spanish navigators to help them sail the ship back to Africa. Instead, the navigators deceive the Africans and sail north to the east coast of the United States, where the ship is stopped by the American navy and the 44 living Africans imprisoned as runaway slaves. In an unfamiliar country and not speaking a word of English, it seems like they are doomed to die for killing their captors. A lawyer named Baldwin, hired by the abolitionist Tappan and his black associate Joadson decides to take their case, arguing that the Africans had been captured in Africa to be sold in the Americas illegally, and therefore were free citizens of another country and not slaves at all. With help from James Covey, who speaks both Mende and English, Baldwin is able to start communicating with Cinque. The judge rules in favor of the Africans, but the case is eventually appealed to the Supreme Court. At this point, former U.S. President John Quincy Adams makes an impassioned and eloquent plea for their release.

Cast[edit]

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun also appears in the film as Justice Joseph Story.

Production[edit]

Actress and director Debbie Allen had run across some books about the mutiny on La Amistad and brought the subject to HBO films, which chose to make a film adaptation of the subject. She later presented the project to DreamWorks SKG to release the film, which agreed. Steven Spielberg, who wanted to stretch his artistic wings after making The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), was interested in directing it for DreamWorks, which he also co-founded as well. Spielberg was an unlikely person to tackle the Amistad story since his previous picture about black characters, The Color Purple, had been badly received by the black community.

Filming of the exterior and interior court scenes took place in the Marble House mansion, and then moved to Sonalyst Studios. The opening scene was filmed on a sound stage in Universal Studios. Production then went to Puerto Rico for the scenes set in Africa, including those with the slave fortress.

Post-production was done rarely with Spielberg, due to his commitment to another DreamWorks film, Saving Private Ryan.

Music[edit]

Amistad
Soundtrack album by John Williams
ReleasedDecember 9, 1997
Recorded1997
GenreScore
Length55:51
LabelDreamWorks Records
John Williams chronology
Seven Years in Tibet
(1997)
Amistad
(1997)
Saving Private Ryan
(1998)
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars
Filmtracks4/5 stars
Movie Wave3/5 stars

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack[edit]

The lyrics from "Dry Your Tears, Afrika" are from a 1967 poem by French-speaking Ivorian poet Bernard Binlin Dadié. The words are primarily in Mende, one of Sierra Leone's major languages.

Historical accuracy[edit]

Many academics, including Columbia University professor Eric Foner, have criticized Amistad for historical inaccuracy and the misleading characterizations of the Amistad case as a "turning point" in the American perspective on slavery. [1] Foner wrote:

Other reported inaccuracies include the following:

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Amistad received mainly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes (RT) gives the film a score of 75% based on reviews from 61 critics, with an average score of 6.9/10. RT's consensus reads: "Heartfelt without resorting to preachiness, Amistad tells an important story with engaging sensitivity and absorbing skill."[6]

Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today summed up the feelings of many reviewers when she wrote: "as Spielberg vehicles go, Amistad — part mystery, action thriller, courtroom drama, even culture-clash comedy — lands between the disturbing lyricism of Schindler's List and the storybook artificiality of The Color Purple."[7] Roger Ebert awarded the film three out of four stars, writing:

"Amistad," like Spielberg's "Schindler's List," is [...] about the ways good men try to work realistically within an evil system to spare a few of its victims. [...] "Schindler's List" works better as narrative because it is about a risky deception, while "Amistad" is about the search for a truth that, if found, will be small consolation to the millions of existing slaves. As a result, the movie doesn't have the emotional charge of Spielberg's earlier film — or of "The Color Purple," which moved me to tears. [...] What is most valuable about "Amistad" is the way it provides faces and names for its African characters, whom the movies so often make into faceless victims.[8]

Box office[edit]

The film earned $44,229,441 at the box office in the United States, debuting at No. 5 on December 10, 1997.[9]

Awards[edit]

Amistad was nominated for Academy Awards in four categories: Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Original Dramatic Score (John Williams), Best Cinematography (Janusz Kamiński), and Best Costume Design (Ruth E. Carter).[10]

AwardCategoryNominee(s)Result
Academy AwardBest CinematographyJanusz KamińskiNominated
Best Costume DesignRuth E. CarterNominated
Best Original Dramatic ScoreJohn WilliamsNominated
Best Supporting ActorAnthony HopkinsNominated
American Society of CinematographersOutstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical ReleasesJanusz KamińskiNominated
Art Directors GuildExcellence in Production Design for a Feature FilmRick Carter (production designer),
Tony Fanning, Christopher Burian-Mohr, William James Teegarden (art directors)
Lauren Polizzi, John Berger, Paul Sonski (assistant art directors)
Nicholas Lundy, Hugh Landwehr (new york art directors)
Nominated
Chicago Film Critics AssociationBest Supporting ActorAnthony HopkinsNominated
Most Promising ActorDjimon HounsouNominated
Critics' Choice Movie AwardBest FilmNominated
Best Supporting ActorAnthony HopkinsWon
David di DonatelloBest Foreign FilmSteven SpielbergNominated
Directors Guild of America AwardOutstanding Directing – Feature FilmNominated
European Film AwardsAchievement in World Cinema
(also for Good Will Hunting)
Stellan SkarsgårdWon
Golden Globe AwardBest Actor – Motion Picture DramaDjimon HounsouNominated
Best DirectorSteven SpielbergNominated
Best Motion Picture – DramaNominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion PictureAnthony HopkinsNominated
Grammy AwardBest Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for TelevisionJohn WilliamsNominated
NAACP Image AwardOutstanding Actor in a Motion PictureDjimon HounsouWon
Outstanding Motion PictureNominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion PictureMorgan FreemanWon
Online Film Critics SocietyBest Supporting ActorAnthony HopkinsNominated
Producers Guild of America AwardBest Theatrical Motion PictureSteven Spielberg, Debbie Allen, Colin WilsonNominated
Political Film Society AwardsExposéNominated
Satellite AwardBest Actor – Motion Picture DramaDjimon HounsouNominated
Best Adapted ScreenplayDavid FranzoniNominated
Best Art Direction and Production DesignRick CarterNominated
Best CinematographyJanusz KamińskiWon
Best Costume DesignRuth E. CarterNominated
Best DirectorSteven SpielbergNominated
Best EditingMichael KahnNominated
Best Film – DramaSteven Spielberg, Debbie Allen, Colin WilsonNominated
Best Original ScoreJohn WilliamsNominated
Screen Actors Guild AwardOutstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting RoleAnthony HopkinsNominated
Southeastern Film Critics AssociationBest Supporting Actor2nd place

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Foner, Eric. "The Amistad Case in Fact and Film", History Matters. Accessed December 8, 2011.
  2. ^ Story, Joseph. "The United States, Appellants, v. The Libellants and Claimants of the Schooner Amistad, Her Tackle, Apparel, and Furniture, Together With Her Cargo, and the Africans Mentioned and Described in the Several Libels and Claims, Appellees", Supreme Court of the United States 40 U.S. 518; 10 L. Ed. 826 (January 1841 Term), Cornell University Law School. Accessed December 8, 2011.
  3. ^ "The United States, Appellants, v. The Libellants and Claimants of the Schooner Amistad...".
  4. ^ "JQA Adams Before the Supreme Court", History Central.
  5. ^ British Royal Navy ranks (including relevant time period) "Officer Ranks in the Royal Navy", Royal Naval Museum. Accessed February 15, 2012.
  6. ^ "Amistad Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  7. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan. "Amistad review", USA Today. Accessed December 8, 2011.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 12, 1997). "Amistad :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved Dec 8, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Amistad". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-12-08. 
  10. ^ "Academy Awards: Amistad". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-12-08. 

External links[edit]