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Film: Amistad

Amistad is a 1997 Steven Spielberg film based on the true story of a slave mutiny that took place aboard a ship of the same name in 1839, and the legal battle that followed. It shows how, even though the case was won at the federal district court level, it was appealed by President Martin Van Buren to the Supreme Court, and how former President John Quincy Adams took part in the proceedings.

This was the second film for which Anthony Hopkins received an Academy Award nomination for playing a U.S. president, having previously been nominated in 1995 for playing Richard Nixon in Nixon.

This Movie Contains Examples Of:

  • Anachronism Stew: Gustave Doré's illustrated Bible is shown, but Doré was only 9 in 1841 and his Bible wouldn't be published until 1866.
  • Anti-Villain: It's shown in a couple of scenes that Van Buren's biggest fear was civil war. Yes, he's worried about his own re-election campaign, but he's even more worried about keeping the peace.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: All the crewmen of the Tecora (a Portuguese ship) speak Spanish with thick Mexican accents.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Adams wins the case and Cinque and the other Africans are freed and return to Africa. The ending texts reveals Cinque's family were carried off into slavery and the civil war that the Americans were dreading the case would lead to finally consumed them.
  • Cool Old Guy: John Quincy Adams.
  • Close Up On Head: The close up of the African leader dramatically shouting "Give us! Us Free!" is suitably dramatic and emotional... until the camera zooms out to show the whole courtroom, showing how silly it looked to the people present in the room with him.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The slaves raise up and kill the slavers (man, the name of that article leads to really Unfortunate Implications).
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Cinque, the village chief, is sold to slavers by his own people (and possibly his wife).
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: President Martin Van Buren, though the film does show that he's effectively being blackmailed by John C. Calhoun into going to the lengths that he does.
  • Hollywood History: Presidential candidates didn't campaign for votes at the time (it was considered highly unseemly), let alone from the backs of trains, and some aspects of the court case are altered for dramatic effect.
  • Ironic Name: Amistad (the ship's name) means Friendship in Spanish.
  • Meta Casting: Former Supreme Court justice Harry A. Blackmun plays Supreme Court justice Joseph Story.
  • Misplaced Vegetation: A West African slave is surprised to see an East African Violet at an American garden.
  • Royal Brat: 10-years old Queen Isabel II of Spain (the fact that her mother was regent and the actual head of state at the time is omitted under the Rule of Funny).
  • Token Minority: Theodore Joadson, the black abolitionist played by Morgan Freeman, did not exist.
  • Vehicle Title

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alternative title(s): Amistad
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