February 18, 1998
Release No. 04-98
CONTACT: Lois Herrmann
PHONE: (202) 619-4365

United States Information Agency
- News Release


Washington, D.C. -- U.S. ambassadors to 74 countries worldwide will invite high-level audiences to special screenings of Steven Spielberg's film "Amistad" during U.S. Black History month, thanks to the generosity of Spielberg and his production company, DreamWorks. The studio has made the film available to United States Information Agency (USIA) offices that are able to locate appropriate theaters, film archives, or other screening venues suitable for 35 mm theatrical prints of the film. USIA's Office of Citizen Exchanges Film Liaison Service is coordinating arrangements for the ambassadorial screenings with DreamWorks and its overseas distributor, United International Pictures.

USIA Director Joseph Duffey said about the film offer: "I am very grateful on behalf of all American embassies abroad for the opportunity to share this wonderful depiction of an important and little-known moment in American history. We are particularly pleased that the screenings will take place during Black History month."

U.S. embassies in countries large and small and in every region of the world have responded with great enthusiasm to the offer of "Amistad," with widely varying reasons for wanting to screen the film. "Amistad" will be viewed by high government officials in the host countries, intellectual and cultural leaders, journalists, members of the diplomatic community, resident Americans, and others.

In Cotonou, Benin, the native country of "Amistad" star Djimon Hounsou, there is particular excitement about the screening. It is the first time that a Beninese actor has succeeded in Hollywood and the showing of "Amistad" is expected to be the cultural event of the year. Because the cinema industry is not well developed in Benin, this may be the only presentation of the film this year. Films normally arrive there at least a year after opening in the United States.

In Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, USIA staff members look forward to the opportunity to share American culture with Bosnian opinion makers. They think the film's message will offer an excellent follow-up to President Clinton's recent visit when he stressed the need for Bosnia to "leave the past behind and work for the future." They also think the screening will be an unparalleled occasion to relink the sophisticated city with the finest in American filmmaking.

In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, USIA staff say the influence of "Amistad" will be far-reaching. Because they have no auditorium, they will arrange to use the French Cultural Center which has just upgraded its 120-seat theater. In a city with sometimes unreliable electricity, the center has a separate generator and four individual air conditioners which operate around the clock.

In Geneva, Switzerland, the film will be shown during the opening of the United States Commission on Human Rights meeting in mid-March. The audience will include permanent representatives of nearly 160 missions to the United Nations in Geneva and chief delegates to the human rights commission. Hosted by the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations organizations in Geneva, Ambassador George E. Moose, the screening will take place in the theater of the Palais Des Nations, seat of the United Nations organizations in Geneva.

In Tegucigalpa, Honduras, a society which includes a black minority, the screening of "Amistad" offers the Ambassador and embassy the opportunity to entertain members of a new government which was inaugurated on January 27.

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