The true story of a group of African natives who were captured by slavers, killed their captors, and were put on trial for murder in 1830s America.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by David Franzoni
Starring Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey,
Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård,
Pete Postlethwaite, Nigel Hawthorne, David Paymer,
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anna Paquin
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score (John Williams)
We have so many dark stories in our country. So many stories where the white men in power decided who among this nation's population were considered people and who were property. The incident on La Amistad is just one such story among many others that defined our nation's priorities early on in our development. The issue of slavery would later tear our nation apart, but the Civil War did not come out of nowhere. It was a hot-button issue that had built up for nearly a hundred years, and this film depicts a court case that nearly started it twenty years early. Spielberg directs this film with grace and poise, and never dances around the morality or lack thereof.
In 1839, a group of African slaves were captured by Spanish slavers. On the journey back to Spain, the Africans escaped and killed their captors, but the ship found its way to America. The Africans were arrested and a court case was filed to determine who owned them. What followed was a surprisingly progressive bit of lawyering thanks to upstart lawyer Roger Baldwin (McConaughey) and former president John Quincy Adams (Hopkins). The performances are fantastic, particularly Djimon Hounsou as Cinque, the Africans' leader.
Amistad could be classified as a white savior movie, but it's mostly factually accurate. There was no possible way for the Africans to plead their case themselves, so they needed the help of sympathetic, white abolitionists to succeed in their plight. I like stories that at least attempt to restore some faith in humanity. This certainly qualifies.