Historical Film: An analysis of the movie Amistad | MyPaperHub

This is a historical film released in the year 1997 that focused on the 1839 uprising that swathe Mende people take over the control of the Amistad ship, where the movie derives its title from, and the clash that occurred after their seizing by United States revenue cutter and it spilled over to become a Supreme Court case in America in 1841.

Music is essential as it helps create a picture and stir a certain feeling from those that are watching in order to drive the message home. In this case, music has been used to full effect. “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” is a French poem that is used in the movie and was written in Mende, a major language in Sierra LeonneThis represents the kind of music that is played as astory in the movie unfolds. 

The soundtrack evokes a feeling of a new era after a bad period is witnessed. Dry your tears are used to represent a sense of hope and a brighter future ahead. The suffering encountered in the film is heavy especially on the viewer but lets him or her get a feel of hope even though what is happening is brutal and no human being should have to go through the same. Music is essential as it helps create a picture and stir a certain feeling from those that are watching in order to drive the message home.

Historicity can be defined as the actuality or reality of the event unfolding in a film as well as the people represented in the film as part and parcel of history as opposed to it being considered as just a myth and can be proven to be true by records of history accounting. In Amistad, historicity is used and can be said to be true in this case. 

Slavery and human trafficking at that time in history had been abolished save for Spain that still focused on slavery and had not abolished. The slaves captured were enroute to Cuba that was a Spanish territory and this places the story in an existent place in history at the time around 1839. The slaves had been capturedfrom Sierra Leonne that was under the rule of Spain at the time and holds the movie to be true.

The Amistad case is recorded in America’s history books since the case was adopted by the Supreme Court in the United States of America that had a general mindset towards slavery at that time. The case is considered to be a crucial part of history as it shows a life changing occurrence in the history of African Americans and what they had to endure then as they try to break free from slavery at the time.

Human rights were not as established then as they are presently. African Americans were considered as property then and this is what fuelled slavery as they were captured and taken abroad to work by force without their consent. The case in the Supreme Court is surprisingly won by the African Americans and sets the human rights stone rolling as it showed that they had a chance to be heard and considered in the same breath as other human beings.

White guilt was also present at the time and this leads to the historical Amistad case that was heard by the American Supreme Court. African Americans were mistreated at the time by fellow human beings that have a conscience. This guilt is seen as lines are crossed by people being captured and transported to a totally new environment with no chances of ever being re-united with their families. At the end of the day, we are all human and feel bad about mistreating our fellow human beings.

Colour has been used to full effect in the movie. The movie is set in the old times as the story occurs. This is used to help bring the effect of the older times that surround the movieThis is employed to make sure that the movie is as normal as possible. Colour also separates the characters into blacks and whites as this was the main difference between slaves and masters at the time. The divide is what sets off the slavery trade. Color has been used to the full advantage and achieves what it is expected to.

Camera work is also used appropriately. Close ups are utilized from a medium one to a tighter one and the smooth movement is employed to draw close attention to a character in the story. This is used to increase the intensity about what is happening to a specific character or around that said character.

Sideways shots are also utilized by Spielberg to enhance the story. It is used to capture two characters walking side by side while conversing at the same time. Extra objects are placed between the characters and the camera to enrich the picture quality and offer background details to the viewer that he or she can interpret. 

Over the shoulder shots are also used in the film. This makes the protagonist in the foreground appear bigger than other characters evoking a feeling of dominance that is very important in a movie like Amistad that talks about slavery where there is a master and those being dominated, the slaves.

Mise en scene represents the features that stand out in a movie. The costumes used by the characters in the film differs from the slaves to the masters. The slaves are clad in rugged and clothes that are just cut out for the sake of just wearing them unlike their masters who are well dressed in quality clothing. This shows the contrast between the slaves and their masters.

The setting occurs between Cuba and United States of America as the slaves are being transported. Sengbe Pieh, one of the slaves known by his slave name Cinque starts a revolt as they are being transported. This shows a desire to be free and equal to other human beings and everyone likes to be accepted as an equal human being.

A motif is defined as a recurrent thematic element in a film. Slavery is one theme that stands out in the movie. Amistad tells the story of slaves captured from Africa and are beingtransported to AmericaThis is a major part of history as it so the human rights of African Americans being abused. This is the main theme of the film as it depicts the plight that slaves underwent in the hands of their masters.

Freedom is also another theme addressed in the film. Cinque first breaks himself out then frees the other prisoners and attack those in charge of the ship. From the onset, there is need to break free that runs up until the end of the film. Human beings have a desire to be free in the society they carry out their lives in.

Leitmotif is a theme associated with an idea, character or circumstance. Cinque as an example comes off as rebellious in the film. He is the voice of the other slaves and an aura of fighting against the system. He takes on the role of the leader and voice of reason for his fellow people who have been captured.

Amistad is a great picture that touches on a great part of the African American history and also human rights in general.






Azarian, M. E. (2009). The Amistad mutiny: From the court case to the movie. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers.

Osagie, I. F. (2000). The Amistad revolt: Memory, slavery, and the politics of identity in the United States and Sierra Leone. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Rediker, M. (2013). The Amistad rebellion: An Atlantic odyssey of slavery and freedom.

Silet, C. L. P. (2002). The films of Steven Spielberg: Critical essays.




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