Amistad Essay, Research Paper
?Set in 1839, ?Amistad? is the true story of a revolt on the Spanish slave ship Amistad, whose ?cargo? of 53 Africans rebelled against their captors. Captured off the coast of Connecticut when their desperate attempt to sail home failed, the Africans are forced to stand trial for the murders of the crew that had held them prisoner. To win their freedom, the Africans, with the help of the abolitionists, find themselves taking on not just the Spanish, but the entire American system of justice.?(Internet)
Stephen Spielberg?s film ?The Amistad? is an illustrative tale of history?s
inevitable course. On the surface, Spielberg relates the journey of Cinque and
his people to America. In a larger sense, however, he contrasts a story of
passage to America with its simple values and way of life to the arrival of an
even more savage life and ideas of the civilization from Africa, a story of greater historical significance. The characters are not extensively developed; instead, they are simply presented, even understated at a point. Spielberg?s intent is to draw vivid characterizations and to create objects and characters as symbols with larger meanings.
Power and authority is the first symbol presented in the story. Who had
it in the beginning and who ended up with it in the end. The superior attitude
of the ?La Amsted?s? crew and the harsh and cruel treatment of the passengers,
implies how primitive and unrefined society was.
In addition to power and authority, characters were used as symbols.
Treated like objects from the beginning, a metaphor for the ideals and principles of European society. In contrast, blacks traditionally were even simpler than whites because they were viewed merely as objects of possession. Beyond of this simple representation, blacks were also viewed as threats, but they actually protected customs valued by their culture for posterity. Second, the arrival of the ship ?La Amistad? brought forth passengers from another world further questioning human rights values supplanting the current mindless values of America. The appearance of the Mende?s in America changed the lives of everyone; from the President of the United States down to the common wealth living in the South.
Attorney Baldwin represented good and true values that had never
existed in society. Entirely underqualified for the case he took on, Baldwin used emotion in his argument and turned the tables around to show discrimination
and poor treatment among ?human beings, not objects.?
This story touches upon two schools of thought. The first was the judicial
court and their ?jurisdiction over ownership?, and the controversy of ?objects
verses human beings?.
The basis of the prosecutions whole argument was circumstantial in that
the judicial court based the lives of the Mendes people on where they were really
from and who rightfully had the ownership over them. They were treated as though they were ?cargo?. Who did they belong too, and who had proper ownership of them? Whether they were ours, Spain?s, or the property of the two Spaniard?s there was no way that we were going to be able to avoid the real issue that was at hand, were they objects or were they humans? The lives and destiny of these people rested solely on where they were from. The President at that time was literally walking on eggshells with the case and knew that his presidential re-election depended on the outcome of this trial. Arguing that ?slaves? from another country could have little if any effect on his nation. While Baldwin and his team represent the opposing forces of old and new, the prosecution and judicial court exemplified the country?s current need and status. Specifically, Cinque symbolized change. In this manner, Baldwin argued that the course of history could be changed by any one person or group.
This event was going to happen no matter what. Whether it was to take
place in 1854 or 1994, human rights issues have been continually been a part of
the constitution ever since it was founded. I found myself thinking that this was truly a great film to watch, a story; then remembering that this was history, an actual event that changed the course of our nation forever.