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Amistad: Hollywood versus History

            When making a movie of an actual historic event, there is always criticism of the accuracy of the movie. It is important to portray the truth to the audience, but it is also necessary to keep them captivated. Often in order to keep the story appealing, segments are altered to create a sense of emotion and attachment towards the film. People do not pay to see movies because they are educationally beneficial; they pay to see movies because they are entertaining. So, if the truth must be stretched to make that extra dollar, then let it be done. The film Amistad, by Steven Spielberg is a prime example of a historically accurate movie that has a glossy Hollywood coating to appeal to the public.
             In 1839 La Amistad was a slave ship headed for the United States that held 53 Africans who had been abducted from West Africa and sold in violation of international law. While in transit, the Africans revolted and took over the ship. They ordered the surviving slave traders on the ship to take them back to Africa, but each night the men reversed direction towards America. Zigzagging for several weeks, the ship eventually landed near the coast of Long Island. The Africans were jailed and charged with piracy and murder. A group of abolitionists, headed by Lewis Tappan, formed a defense committee. There was a major court case involving who the ship and slaves rightfully belong and where the slaves came from. Attorney Roger Baldwin was on the defense for the Africans. The case was taken to the United States Supreme Court, and with help from former President John Quincy Adams, the Africans were ruled free. .
             Spielberg starts the film with the scene where the slaves take over the ship by force. The audience does not know where the ship is headed, or how the slaves were put on the ship. He does this to create the same mystery that the Americans have when the Amistad arrives in Long Island. It makes you feel involved in the trial, and trying to find the truth about ship and the Africans.

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