‘Amistad’ Provokes Thought, Talk


In “Amistad,” Africans held as slaves become the focus of a courtroom battle for their freedom after staging a bloody revolt aboard a slave ship. Former President John Quincy Adams (played by Anthony Hopkins) argues for them before the U.S. Supreme Court. Rated R.

Shelly Pinter knew exactly why her mom took her to see “Amistad.” It was a learning experience, a stirring way to further understand that humans kept other humans as property many years ago.


Still, the Mission Viejo 12-year-old was startled by what she saw. Scenes graphically portraying the shipboard revolt and middle passages depicting life on the slave ship were especially disturbing to her.

“They were so mean to them,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

The movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, had an impact on Shelly and other preteens and teens, but adults should be careful when deciding to take children. The violence, though fleeting, is intense, and the slavery theme is complex.


Ben Roberts, 15, of San Clemente didn’t see the film with a parent--he went with friend Beth Garry, 15, also of San Clemente. Both said little about “Amistad” surprised them.

They knew of the atrocities, physical and mental, committed against slaves and were prepared for the graphic moments.

Still, one scene made Ben and Beth uncomfortable. Because provisions were low, slave traders tied as many as 50 men, women and children to an anchor of stones and threw them overboard.

“That was pretty awesome and bad,” Ben said.

Mark Rosensweig, 12, of Lake Forest said he enjoyed “Amistad” but admitted to being confused about the courtroom battle that makes up much of the picture. Though the slaves’ freedom is the main issue, the story gets complicated as Spain joins in the fight about who owns the Africans.

Everyone agreed that Cinque, the leader of the Africans, was a dynamic and appealing character. His nobility and strength came across clearly, especially because of actor Djimon Hounsou’s affecting portrayal.

“I really believed him; he was great,” Ben said.


PARENTS’ PERSPECTIVE: Cecilia Pinter, Shelly’s mom, described “Amistad” as an ideal combination of entertainment and education.

“We’ll talk about slavery more, [and] this particular incident, when we get home. I’m going to ask her to bring it up in her [seventh grade] class too.”

Glenn Lam of Laguna Niguel took his sons, 14 and 12, with no second thoughts. “Some R-rated films are perfect for kids, and this was one of them,” he said.