STARRING: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Aunjanue Ellis and Colman Domingo
DIRECTOR: Mira Nair
RELEASE DATE: October 7, 2016
The Birth of A Nation is a powerful yet redundant film that seems to sprout up every five to ten years in nationwide and worldwide theaters which explores the realms of slavery. The film initially debuted in competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival where it won not only critical acclaim but the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Fox Searchlight Pictures obtained the worldwide rights to the film for $17.5 million and released it on October 7, 2016. Since it’s release date the film has garnered a mere $9.8 million. It seems the public is telling Hollywood enough with these socially conscious movies.
The movie takes place in the Antebellum South where Nat Turner (Nate Parker) is a literate slave and preacher whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities against himself and his fellow slaves, Turner orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.
The Birth of A Nation is a retelling of the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. In the film, the adult Turner is specifically infuriated by the sexual abuse of women at the hands of white slave owners. He has his first vision of blood when his wife Cherry Ann (Aja Naomi King) is beaten and raped by slave catchers and is pushed over the edge when another woman, Esther (Gabrielle Union), is raped as well. An extremely unnerving and violent part of the movie is a succession of small but intense skirmishes between Turner’s militia and local pro-slavery whites, including Raymond Cobb (Jackie Earle Haley) as a “paddy roller,” who was a blatantly racist policeman mainly concerned with protecting slave owners from slaves and preventing escapes. However, he is so appalled and sickened by the horrors he sees during his travels that he is eventually moved to fight back against the evils of slavery.
The film is riveting, yet once its been viewed, the audience leaves the theater with a since of deja vu. Tinseltown needs to realize that African Americans have more in-depth stories to tell about themselves other than the oppressions of slavery. A Birth of A Nation receives 5 stars out of 10 stars.