Seeing Amistad at a Multiplex
Mime-Version: 1.0 (NeXT Mail 3.3 v118.2)
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 98 19:27:18 -0800
Subject: Seeing Amistad at a Multiplex
Forwarded-by: Patrick Tufts <email@example.com>
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jeff Vogel)
I was already quite familiar with the story of the Amistad, so I was excited
to hear about a major motion picture describing the tragic situation. When
I finally was able to break away to see the movie (arriving at the theater
a few minutes late, I'm sad to say), I was completely perplexed by the
liberties taken with the story!
First off, the ship had clearly been filtered through the sensibilities of
Hollywood! For starters, practically everyone on board was white! Not only
that, but many of them were clearly British, and most were very well off.
How on earth, even in an avant-garde, post-modern setting, could one
seriously portray a boat full of African slaves as a ship full of
upper-class British and American citizens!
Then, even though the true focus of the story of the Amistad is on the
bravery of the slaves in their escape and the legal maneuvering once they
reached this country, the movie almost completely focused on the goings-on
on the ship (except for a poker scene at the beginning whose relevance to
the whole slavery controversy escaped me). Then, in the final travesty of
history, this ship does not come to America and an incredible, portentous
legal battle. Instead, the ship sinks! I COULD NOT believe my eyes! While
the effects were, I suppose, credible, I must stress, for all who saw this
movie and were confused, the Amistad NEVER struck an iceberg of any size!
There were some good points to the movie, of course. The scene in which the
young slave lad drew the upper class naked white woman was a lovely metaphor
for the ambivalence of whites in the face of this most inhuman institution.
Also, when the young, inexplicably white slave boy slowly freezes and drowns
in the arms of the southern gentlewoman, I was weeping as openly as the
hundreds of teenage girls surrounding me.
Still, the movie is a travesty, plain and simple, and I shudder to think of
all the young people who left thinking that the Amistad was a luxury liner,
and not the floating pit of Hell it truly was!
© 1998 Peter Langston