Occasionally I wander through Netflix in search of a good movie. NF is always ready to tell me what they think I will like, but they only hit the win button about 15% of the time: I’m not married to any one particular genre. Sometimes I check to see what films some of my favorite actors have made besides the ones I’ve seen. When I find a movie with a favorite actor and a gifted producer like Stephen Spielberg, I can’t resist. Amistad is one of those movies. The story was so good, I watched it twice.
The Amistad, which means friendship in Spanish, belonged to the fleet of the Spanish slave traders. When the story began the ship was en route from Cuba to the southern states with the hold full of kidnapped West African Mendi people. One of the slaves, called Cinque by the Spaniards, led the Africans in a revolt. They killed the cook, and the captain, and the other two sailors jumped overboard. The Africans then demanded that the two Spaniards who were left take them back to Africa.
During the daylight hours, the Spaniards sailed toward Africa, but at night they changed course to head back to the southern states, or perhaps Cuba. Where they actually ended up was Long Island, NY. They were taken by a Federal ship, and towed to Connecticut where the Africans were put into prison.
One of the main issues dealt with the revolt and subsequent killing of the Spanish captain and the cook. The other was whether or not these Africans were born slaves sold to the Spaniards in Cuba, or if they had been captured illegally in West Africa by the Portuguese and then sold to Cuba where the Spaniards purchased them. If it was the former, they could legally be sold as slaves in America. If not, it would be illegal to sell them as slaves. And, how could you find out from the Africans if they spoke no English or Spanish?
There ensued long, intense legal arguments for and against freeing the Africans. Weighing in on the side of the Mendi people was 72-year-old John Quincy Adams who had done much for the abolitionists. The Amistad is viewed by some historians as an important milestone in the endeavor to end slavery.
The movie is rated R for some nudity and violence.