Amistad- A Steven Spielberg venture is based on slave trading. While showing the atrocities and glaring brutalities of the slave trading, the movie also reflects on imbalances of an immature globalised era. The visuals of the movie are strong and create an indelible impression on the minds of the viewers creating identities which may be subconsciously underlying.
The issue of identity has been dealt significantly in the movie. The plot is based on understanding the “identity” of the Blacks who were captured in the sea. Due to their color and origin the Blacks were forced to work for the so called privileged Whites. Their identity was reduced to being workers, slaves etc. The powerful looked upon them as those who were born to serve them. In one of the scenes of the movie the dialogue compares them to a “livestock”.
Although a few images of the movie reinforce the image that we have been nurturing of Africa which is Black tribes who live in the wild, eat raw food, talk gibberish and wear tattered clothes. Surely Africa has moved away from those times but we do not come across images of Africa that recognize it as at least on the path of development. Although the movie is based on 1839 mutiny, still an effort could have been made to show Africa from a closer, broader perspective.
Again in the movie, the United States of America is seen as the nation above all where a Black lives together with the other Whites of the nation; where ideas of equality and human rights prevail within some groups. The film fails to give a new perspective to the Africans but surely doesn’t fail to compromise on the idea of “United States - the Savior of the World.”
The idea of Christianity is also eulogized. One of the dialogues mentions that “as Christians it is our responsibility to save these people”. The depictions of Bible as the source of strength, seeing the cross while going for the trial are some of the images that propose Christianity as the Supreme religion.
There are various instances that reflect on Globalization too. To start with slave trading is itself a consequence of globalization where countries ‘trade’ amongst themselves the people who are devoid of powerful structures. We have Neo-liberalism and neo colonialism now, which is no less that exploitation of human resources of one country by the other in form of slave trading.
The fact that US is able to decide on the fate of a few people who do not even belong to its region, only on the grounds that they were captured by them is a reflection of a globalised world- that countries are able to influence each other. The issue of ownership of slaves is also a possibility in a time when there is increasing interaction between nations.
The fear of Civil War all over the world due to freedom of these 44 slaves in US also talks about globalization where one decision taken at US can affect the slaves of China.
The movie tries to give the message of equality and freedom as a right to all- an idea that is acceptable universally and globally. Not to forget that this message is given by an American, ex President John Adams arguing on behalf of Africans in the climax courtroom scene.
Amistad is a movie that deals with a horrifying past yet becomes just another winning story of America rather than Africa.