Amistad is a 1997 historical drama directed by Steven Spielberg that focuses on the resolution of the 1839 landmark case in which a group of illegally obtained African slaves mutinied against their "owners" and took command of the ship on which they were travelling. The film centers on the legal battle surrounding the slaves and focuses especially on determining who owns the slaves captured by a United States ship and if they can be claimed as slaves at all.
In the film, the slaves aboard the ship La Amistad rebel against their captors for a number of reasons, primarily because they want to go home. As the "slaves'" story begins to unfold, it is revealed that many of them had been kidnapped from their homes in Africa by other Africans who were looking to make money by betraying their fellow countrymen. These kidnapped people's were then taken to a slave market and purchased by slave traders who operated the ship Tecora. While aboard the Tecora, Cinque, who is highlighted in the film, and his fellow abductees, which included men, women, and children, were subjected to the horrors of the Middle Passage. At one point, the crew of the Tecora throws a group of their captives overboard to either lighten their load or to make amends for a miscalculation in rations, as is suggested in the film by Captain Fitzgerald. Upon the Tecora's arrival in Cuba, the remaining, surviving slaves are bought by Ruiz and Montes, who hope to illegally smuggle their captives and sell them for profit, falsely claiming that they are Cuban-born slaves and thus legitimate slaves -- which they are not. After having been passed on to another set of Spanish ship owners, Cinque not only fears for his life after having witnessed the atrocities aboard the Tecora, but he also yearns to be free and to return to his family and home in Sierra Leone, from where he was abducted.
Because of this innate desire to be free, Cinque and his fellow abductees rebel against the crew of La Amistad and kill everyone aboard, except for Ruiz and Montes whom they intend to use to help them navigate the ship back home. While Cinque is initially successful in commandeering La Amistad, the ship is eventually captured by a United States revenue cutter ship and Cinque and his fellow captives are taken to Connecticut to await the trial that will determine their fates.
There were many factors that needed to be determined legally in order to proceed with the issue at hand: were Cinque and his fellow countrymen property and if they were, who could legally lay claim to said property, Ruiz and Montes, the revenue cutters that brought them in, or the Queen Isabella II of Spain. Amidst the salvage claims and property rights that emerged from this ordeal, Queen Isabella II also tried to invoke a number of treaties to claim Cinque et al. As her legal property.
In the film, it was determined that the revenue cutters did not have legal claim over Cinque et al. because they were not property or slaves because they had not been born into slavery and thus any claim was made arguing that they were slaves was invalid. Additionally, Ruiz and Montes were arrested on charges of illegal slave trading. Subsequently, the kidnapped Africans are granted their freedom and given the chance to return to Africa at the United States' expense. However, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut appealed this initial decision and the case had to then is taken before the Supreme Court. After much deliberation, including arguments by John Quincy Adams on behalf of the Africans, the Supreme Court found in the Africans favor and determined that they were to be set free although they also determined that the United States was…