Monday, November 9, 2009


I thought that the movie, Amistad, really differed from all the movies which Dyer talked about in his piece. Amistad documents the lives of Africans who were captured by Spanish people, held captive on a ship called The Amistad, which then brought them to the United States where they would work as slaves. On the trip to the United States, one of the tribal leaders manages to start a revolt and take control over the Spanish people, however, the ship’s navigator deceived them into thinking they were going home whilst secretly bringing them to the United States.

Amistad is a brutal retelling of slavery in the United States and a recollection of how horribly Africans were treated by the white people. The blacks are seen being brutally tortured in this movie; they are chained to the ship and are beaten and given very little food and water. They are forced to live below the deck in very close proximities to one another where the smell of urine and waste pierces the air. Thus, I think this film really differs from Simba in which Dyer describes as being a film which is ‘organized around a rigid binarism with white standing for modernity, reason, order, stability, and black standing for backwardness, irrationality, chaos and violence” (147). Though the blacks in Amistad do engage in violence when they are rebelling against the whites who have captured them, it is only due to self defense and they are in no way as brutal as the whites are towards them. The Whites in this film in no way stand for “order” or “stability” as the fact that they think that capturing blacks to be slaves is acceptable is already irrational and is what spurred on the chaos and violence in the first place! The Whites in this film were not portrayed as “calm, controlled, and rational” (156), unlike those present within Jezebel. In fact, they are completely the opposite and are definitely not rational in the way they treat the Africans and are not calm or controlled when torturing them.  Dyer comments on Simba that “being White means being able to repress violence and this is what we seem to see in Alan throughout the film” (151). However, the whites clearly cannot repress their violence in Amistad where they seem to show no remorse in the way they treat the Africans and torture them to no end.

“All the three films [mentioned in Dyer’s piece] share a perspective that associates whiteness with order, rationality, rigidity, qualities brought out by the context with black disorder, irrationality and looseness” (145). This is also untrue and probably the opposite in Amistad as black disorder only entailed after the White’s tore them away from their land and held them captive as slaves. Dyer also mentions that, “black characters do not occupy a significant dramatic function in the film, but their social role nevertheless plays an explicit and relevant part in the conflict that arises between the principal white characters”. However, in Amistad the Africans play a crucial role in the film and there would be no movie without them.  

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