I hadn't heard of this film before so I went and hired it DVD. Here are my thoughts on the story telling and its impact.
I found it a very compelling and well-crafted film and insight into the living, breathing hell of human captives and their being seen in terms of 'cargo' with disputed 'ownership'.
It reminds me of one of the central ideas of Jarrod Diamond's 'Guns, Germs and Steel' - where would the whites have been without their guns?
I don't think anyone - white or black - can fully comprehend what the african 'human cargo' endured during trans Atlantic slavery. To me, it is unthinkable, unforgivable and unfathomable.
After the mutiny, it was powerful to watch the Africans navigate their ship by the stars - like the ancients - knowing they could at least put their trust in nature.
It must have been an extremely difficult and confronting film to re-enact for all the actors, particularly those of African heritage. The scene of Morgan Freeman falling among the slave chains on the empty ship was spine-chilling.
Unbelievably, there were some wry moments of humour, especially the comments made about the Christian group assembled in support outside the prison - well-meaning but clueless nonetheless - looking 'sick' and 'miserable'.
And the comments made about the white people speaking "gibberish" and "being idiots".
I liked also that the film indicated the group were from different regions and tribes, not just a 'generic' African group.
I was grateful of the lack of American accents, and that the Africans did speak in Mende not 'american.' Also that American 'flag-waving' was kept to a minimum. Except for the dreaded tuba/trombone wailing sentimentally in the background of the 'we're the good (white) guys' scenes. (nothing new with American films though )
The film delivered some powerful and chilling lines including:
The integrity of African culture: "There is no word in Mende for 'should'. You either do it or you don't".
then the less than happy...
"They (the slaves) may be more important to our struggle in their death. As matyrs..." spoken by an abolishionist.
Spoken by Morgan Freeman: "(for some men)...hatred of slavery is greater than anything, but the slave himself."
"The africans must never be free." spoken before a 'new judge' was selected.
...and of course the simplicity and horror of the comment spoken by Djimon referring to America: "What kind of place is this?"
What kind of place indeed?
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On another note, others may argue, but I thought Djimon Hounsou did a great acting job. And on a purely aesthetic note, I will say that I think Djimon is the most beautiful looking man I have ever seen. Only on the screen, unfortunately.