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 AMISTAD 

Theme: Affliction, Redemption, Deliverance from bondage, "Natural state of mankind"

Comparison:  Schindler's List, Amistad, and Saving Private Ryan are the three movies that share the theme of redemption.  Below is a comparison of these movies:

 

All three movies are stories of redemption.
All portray an evil enemy (slave traders) who has taken over a territory, captured, and enslaved the people (slaves).
All show the enemy as having a mighty fortress where they are firmly entrenched (Lomboko slave fortress, Sierra Leone).
Redemption of the enslaved is plotted.
There is a list that emerges of those to be redeemed (ship's manifest).
Two work together to accomplish this redemption.  The older, wiser one makes the call (John Quincy Adams).  The younger one goes in to accomplish it (Roger Baldwin).
There is a sacrificial price to be paid (Roger Baldwin loses his attorney practice and receives death threats).
At the end, the generational fruit of the redeemed is shown (freed slaves returning to Africa).

Interesting Note:
In comparing these three movies, it is interesting to note that the number of the redeemed decreases from 1100 to 44 to 1.  At the same time, the picture of "hell" increases dramatically.  Schindler's List is hard to watch.  Amistad is perhaps a little more brutal.  Neither, however, compare to the carnage of Saving Private Ryan.

Comparison with the Gospel:
The gospel is a story of redemption.  The enemy, Satan, came to earth, captured and enslaved mankind (Genesis 3), and built a mighty fortress.  The Bible describes him as the prince of the world (John 14:30) and the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). 

The triune God has plotted redemption.  The names of those to be redeemed have been inscribed in the Lamb's Book of Life (Revelation 21:27).  The "elder" (Father) makes the call; the "younger" (Son) goes in to accomplish it.  The price of redemption is the life of the Son (II Corinthians 5:21).  The fruit of the redemption is the children of God indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14-16).

 Insights:     

The Story

Amistad's overall story is the gospel theme of beauty (Eden), affliction (the fall), and redemption (salvation). Through the life of Cinque, we see the story of the Amistad slaves and find out who they are, not just what they are. Cinque's home is in Africa (Eden).  Captured and enslaved, he descends into the world of slavery (the fallen world). Two attorneys, Roger Baldwin and John Quincy Adams, work to restore his freedom and return him to his home (paradise).

 

Prison Conversation

The Gospel is most clearly revealed in a conversation between Cinque and Yamba  (another slave) while in prison. The conversation takes place following a very powerful scene in the movie where Cinque cries out, "Give us free!"  Thus the concept of man's freedom is tied closely to their conversation.

The Abolitionists have given Yamba a Bible.  He is studying it when Cinque interrupts him and tells him not to pretend he is interested because no one is watching.

Yamba: "I am not pretending. I am beginning to understand." (He shows Cinque pictures from the Bible.) "Their people have suffered more than ours.                          Their lives were full of suffering; then he was born and everything changed."
Cinque:  "Who is he?"
Yamba:  "I don't know, but everywhere he goes he is followed by the sun. Here he is healing people with his hands, protecting them. being given children."   
Cinque:  "What's this?"
Yamba:  "He could also walk across the sea.  But then something happened."

[Film shifts to judge in the church with shot of the cross]

"He was captured and accused of some crime. Here he is with his hands tied."

Cinque:  "He must have done something."
Yamba:  "Why?  What did we do?  Whatever it was it was serious enough to kill him for it. Do you want to see how they killed him?"    
Cinque:  "This is just a story."
Yamba:  "But look. That's not the end. His people took his body down from this thing. this.. (He draws the cross in the air.)

[Scene shifts to judge making cross as he prays]

"They took him into a cave. They wrapped him in a cloth like we do.  They thought he was dead, but he appeared before his people again.and spoke to them.  Then finally he rose in the sky."

[Shots of judge and cross]

"This is where the soul goes when it dies. This is where we are going when they kill us. It doesn't look so bad."

[Judge crosses himself and gets up]

In chains, neck and leg irons the slaves walk to the courthouse to hear the judge's decision. Yamba carrying his Bible sees a ship with three masts just like the three crosses in the crucifixion picture.


Natural State of Mankind


In closing arguments before the Supreme Court, John Quincy Adams quotes an article written by John Calhoun, which in essence says that there has never existed a  "civilized" society in which one segment didn't thrive upon the labor of another. Calhoun goes all the way back to Eden where with only two, one was to submit to another. (Genesis 3, the fallen world) Slavery, therefore, has always been with us and is the  "natural state of mankind".  To which John Quincy Adams responds, "The natural state of mankind is freedom."

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1)

At the end of the film, the slave fortress is destroyed and all the captives are set free. (Luke 4:18) Cinque and the other Amistad slaves are beautifully clothed and are shown returning home. (Isaiah 61:10).

 Scriptures:  Galatians

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