A true story.

"Give us free."

Cineque

Amistad

Release Date: December 25, 1997

Freedom is not given. It is our right at birth. But there are moments when it must be taken.

In the summer of 1839, on a stormy night off the coast of Cuba, 53 Africans held captive in the cramped cargo holds of the Spanish slave ship, La Amistad, break free of their shackles. Led by Cinque (Djimon Hounsou), they arm themselves, take control of the ship and reclaim their freedom. They have one goal: to return to Africa.

Without the navigational skills to guide them home, the Africans are forced to rely on the two surviving members of the crew. But they are tricked. After two months on a ragged course up the Eastern seaboard, the Amistad is captured by an American naval ship off the coast of Long Island and the Africans charged with murder and piracy.

In the beginning, the Africans are championed by abolitionists Theodore Joadson (Morgan Freeman) and Lewis Tappan (Stellan Skarsgård), and a young real estate attorney named Roger Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey). However, as the case becomes the symbol of a nation divided, two great Americans lock horns in the debate. Pro-slavery President Martin Van Buren (Nigel Hawthorne), seeking re-election, is willing to sacrifice the Africans to appease the South, as well as Queen Isabella of Spain (Anna Paquin). But his will is challenged by former President John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins), who comes out of retirement to fight the Africans’ cause in the United State Supreme Court.

It is a case that challenges the very foundation of our legal system, but for the African captives on trial, this is not a clash of politics or ideologies. This is a fight for the basic right of all mankind...freedom.

Directed by Steven Spielberg and featuring an international ensemble cast also including David Paymer, Pete Postlethwaite (The Lost World Jurassic Park) and Stellan Skarsgård, Amistad is written by David Franzoni and produced by Steven Spielberg, Debbie Allen (who brought the project to Spielberg after she saw Schindler's List), and Colin Wilson. Regular Spielberg collaborators Janusz Kaminski (cinematographer), Rick Carter (production designer), Michael Kahn (editor) and John Williams (composer) all contributed their crafts to the film, with Ruth E. Carter designing the film's costumes, which were nominated for an Academy Award (along with the film's cinematography, score, and best supporting performance by Hopkins).

Amistad marked Steven Spielberg's first film as director for his newly founded DreamWorks Pictures when it was released in the winter of 1997.

About the Film

About the Film

CAST
  • MORGAN FREEMAN,
  • NIGEL HAWTHORNE,
  • ANTHONY HOPKINS,
  • DJIMON HOUNSOU,
  • MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY,
  • DAVID PAYMER,
  • PETE POSTLETHWAITE,
  • STELLAN SKARSGÅRD,
  • ANNA PAQUIN
DIRECTOR
  • STEVEN SPIELBERG
SCREENWRITER
  • DAVID FRANZONI
PRODUCERS
  • DEBBIE ALLEN,
  • STEVEN SPIELBERG,
  • COLIN WILSON
CINEMATOGRAPHER
  • JANUSZ KAMINSKI
PRODUCTION DESIGNER
  • RICK CARTER
COSTUME DESIGNER
  • RUTH E. CARTER
EDITOR
  • MICHAEL KAHN
COMPOSER
  • JOHN WILLIAMS