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Amistad

Threat advisory: Severe - Severe risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Freedom is not given. It is our right at birth. But there are moments when it must be taken.

In the summer of 1839, on a stormy night off the coast of Cuba, 53 Africans held captive in the cramped cargo holds of the Spanish slave ship La Amistad break free of their shackles. Led by Cinque (Djimon Hounsou), they arm themselves, take control of the ship and reclaim their freedom. They have one goal, to return to Africa, but the ship is captured by the USA Navy and the Africans are charged with murder and piracy.

In the beginning, the Africans are championed by abolitionists Theodore Joadson (Morgan Freeman) and Lewis Tappan (Stellan Skarsgård), and a young real estate attorney named Roger Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey). However, as the case becomes the symbol of a nation divided, two great Americans lock horns in the debate. Pro-slavery President Martin Van Buren (Nigel Hawthorne) seeking re-election is willing to sacrifice the Africans to appease the South as well as Queen Isabella of Spain (Anna Paquin). But his will is challenged by former president John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins) who comes out of retirement to fight the Africans' cause in the USA Supreme Court. This is a fight for the basic right of all humankind... freedom.

Theatrical propaganda posters

Amistad image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film drama true USA slavery protest politics law repeal freedom court trial

Persons of interest

  • Morgan Freeman .... Theodore Joadson
  • Nigel Hawthorne .... Martin Van Buren
  • Anthony Hopkins .... John Quincy Adams
  • Djimon Hounsou .... Cinque
  • Matthew McConaughey .... Baldwin
  • David Paymer .... Secretary Forsyth
  • Pete Postlethwaite .... Holabird
  • Stellan Skarsgård .... Tappan
  • Razaaq Adoti .... Yamba
  • Abu Bakaar Fofanah .... Fala
  • Anna Paquin .... Queen Isabella II
  • Tomas Milian .... Calderon
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor .... Ensign Covey
  • Derrick N. Ashong .... Buakei
  • Geno Silva .... Ruiz
  • John Ortiz .... Montes
  • Ralph Brown .... Lieutenant Gedney
  • Darren E. Burrows .... Lieutenant Meade
  • Allan Rich .... Judge Juttson
  • Paul Guilfoyle .... Attorney
  • Peter Firth .... Captain Fitzgerald
  • Xander Berkeley .... Hammond
  • Jeremy Northam .... Judge Coglin
  • Arliss Howard .... John C Calhoun
  • Willie Amakye .... Folowa
  • Luc Assogba .... Gbatui
  • Mariah Campbell .... Masery
  • Habib Conteh .... Bai
  • Stephen Conteh .... Morlai
  • Monguehy Fanzy .... Fabanna
  • Jimmy Fotso .... Kwong
  • Adekunle Ilori .... Kahei
  • Sheriff Kargbo .... Almamy
  • Saye Lah .... Kessebe
  • David Franzoni .... Screenwriter
  • Steven Spielberg .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Steven Spielberg was chosen to direct Amistad because of Schindler's list. The sensitivity with which he presented the case of an unloved and undesired minority (Jews) appealed to the woman who brought the story to the screen: Debbie Allen (probably best known as Lydia Grant in Fame). And it pays off. What I saw was a huge story spanning one ocean, two continents, three courts and innumerable cultures. Amistad has a grandeur that makes it hard to believe that it is other than a piece of Hollywood fiction but it also has an intimacy that tells you it can be nothing but real. (In fact, it is all based on fact.)

Djimon is absolutely astounding as Cinque: incredibly beautiful to look at, powerful and heroic, but at the same time a deeply wounded and passionate man. Someone else who gets a nod is Anthony Hopkins. He's played so many good roles that you forget how talented he can be, but as the ex-president, he is riveting. His speech before the Supreme Court is a masterpiece of character, timing, mannerism, emotion and performance.

There is only one weak link in this film and that is its length. At 155 minutes a great number of people will avoid seeing it, but it is they who will lose out. Rare for me, there is not a frame I would remove from the final cut.

Amistad is a great film, one which must be experienced to be understood.

Security censorship classification

M (Low level violence, adult themes)

Surveillance time

155 minutes

Not for public release in Australia before date

DVD retail: Undated April 1999

Cinema surveillance images

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