Thompson: You've Got to be Kidding
A doctoral student in psychology has discovered the following horrific mis-statements of fact:
The film Amistad "depicts Cinque is sitting in shackles before the Supreme Court ... In fact, Cinque was imprisoned in Connecticut during the trial." The film Glory "depicts new recruits for the 54th Massachusetts Infantry assembling and meeting each other for the first time. Most of the individuals shown in the clip are former slaves from the South. In fact, most of the recruits in this regiment were freemen from Massachusetts and other Northern states." The film Eight Men Out, depicts players being "banned from baseball immediately after the 1919 World Series ... In fact, the players played 5 more months, almost another full season, before they were banned from baseball."
Despite my doctorate in history, I did not know the story of Steve Biko until I saw Denzel Washington in Cry Freedom. I did not learn of the huge 19th century controversy over slaves being thrown to the sharks until I saw Amistad.
At the time I saw Glory, I had no idea of the thousands (not dozens, not hundreds) of Blacks, including veterans, who were killed by terrorism for years after the Civil War. And to quibble over John Sayles' details in his masterpiece while ignoring the message that he, and his character actor, Studs Turkel, conveyed in Eight Men Out is silly.
If I remember correctly, the New Republic cover photo of the final battle scene of Glory was accidently published in reverse, making it look like the men were charging west, not east, or vica versa. By the way, Richard Attenborough's Cry Freedom, which was so accurate in other details, hides the fact that Charlie the Wood's family dog was also killed by the South African Security Police who murdered Steve Biko. And I have another scoop for the researcher; it was not the real 19th century Supreme Court Justice would read the final verdict in Amistad, but Justice Harry Blackman playing the role. I bet he had a reason for lending his support to that fantastic movie. - John Thompson