[Marxism] THE AMISTAD REBELLION by Marcus Rediker AVAILABLE NOW ON VERSO BOOKS

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jan 15 08:32:16 MST 2014


On 1/15/14 9:46 AM, VersoMail Verso wrote:
>
> THE AMISTAD REBELLION: AN ATLANTIC ODYSSEY OF SLAVERY AND FREEDOM
>
>
> by Marcus Rediker
>
>
> AVAILABLE NOW
> http://www.versobooks.com/books/1524-the-amistad-rebellion
>
>
>
> “So gripping that I’m wary of providing spoilers.” — ERIC FONER,
> NATION

Too bad that Spielberg's movie was more like "ET" than what this slave 
revolt deserved. Will get around to reading Rediker's book since it 
sounds like the perfect companion to Greg Grandin's book on Benito Cereno.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/12/20/screening-slavery/

“Amistad”

If you are looking for evidence that Stephen Spielberg is one of the few 
genuine auteurs on the scene today (a term coined by François Truffaut 
to describe how certain directors shape their films according to a 
unique creative vision), there’s no better place to look than this 1997 
film based on an historical event, the slave revolt of 1839 that led to 
a historic trial with a happy ending.

The slaves function pretty much as ET did, strange creatures only 
wishing to go home while John Quincy Adams, the ex-president who argued 
their case before the Supreme Court, is a kind of prequel to Abraham 
Lincoln—an enlightened white politician who frees the slaves. What’s 
missing, however, is the viewpoint of the slaves. Unlike ET, they are 
capable of seeing the world just like us. But David Franzoni’s script 
treats them as exotic objects, all the more unknowable through their use 
of a native language that frequently goes un-subtitled. This is all the 
more egregious in the opening scene of the film when they commandeer the 
ship, murdering the entire crew except for the captain and his mate who 
are ordered to sail them back to Africa. In this scene, not a single 
word comes out of the slaves’ mouths except at the maximum volume and 
accompanied by grimacing of the sort seen on the faces of arch-villains 
in the silent movies of the 1920s. One imagines Spielberg directing his 
Black actors, “Louder…and arch your eyebrows higher”. I suspect that 
Paul Greenglass, the director of “Captain Phillips”, must have studied 
the film carefully in order to develop an approach to his Somali pirate 
characters.

“Amistad” is basically courtroom drama with Matthew McConaughey as the 
defense attorney (upon appeal, John Quincy Adams played by Anthony 
Hopkins takes over.) He argues on strictly legalistic grounds that the 
slaves were taken from Sierra Leone, a colony of Great Britain that had 
declared slavery illegal. It has all the dramatic intensity of the 
debate in the House of Representatives that occupied the final hour of 
“Lincoln”. If that is your cup of tea, the film is worth watching.






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