The Birth Of A Nation; Why this film deserves more than it’s getting.

Nate Parker’s movie has been blighted by an insane amount of negativity and flak, rendering it hard for many to see it without later talking about everything else outside of the film. Nate Parker’s rape controversy, how he appeared ‘cold’ when confronted about it, the feeling that he still isn’t quite repentant enough do not do favours for his debut film and PR. Go outside of that and you enter a world of anger and outrage all over and a dilemma for Black women who know Parker’s movie is an important tribute to their identity but feel victimized when ‘supporting’ his film. The Birth Of A Nation is also riding on a record-breaking 20 million flop by Fox Searchlight whose Oscar dreams have been dashed by a underwhelming response from critics and the overwhelming controversy surrounding it. Tough times indeed. I won’t defend Parker because I don’t know the whole truth, but I am here to review his film for what it is and I won’t mix the art with the artist. But if I can say one thing more about this, it’s this- Casey Affleck, star of Manchester By The Sea is also embroiled in far less damaging coverage of sexual harrassment. Parker’s case is more serious, but Casey Affleck has been given a much easier time. Manchester By The Sea is now Affleck’s vehicle to the Oscars and a launchpad for his rise while Parker will forever be damned for his personal life. Something’s not too right.

The Birth Of A Nation is Nate Parker’s biographical dramatization of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in the Antebellum South. It’s rich with imagery and Black folklore and littered with violent acts of cruelty and savagery. Parker’s heavy handed approach involves carefully and purposely placed symbols. At times, the mythology of his dream sequences feel removed from his main message. His metaphors draws attention away from the power of his scenes. But overall, The Birth Of A Nation is a chilling new look at slavery and underscores the legacy of Nat Turner’s slave revolution. Taking some liberties with the truth, Birth Of A Nation isn’t the best it could have been but it’s sheer power and importance overrides any artistic demerits it may have.

Nat Turner isn’t the best role model by any means. But Nat Turner is perhaps the most logical human response to slavery’s inhumanity. That dilemma is greatly explored in the film. For all it’s forced and artistic ‘in-your-face’ visual flairs, I like the film because it captured the most important aspect of Turner’s identity. Having been educated for a while, Turner was in a unique position. He was both a servant of God and a servant of man; A preacher of true gospel and a preacher of imposed propaganda. Personally, I found the parts where he struggled to preach to the slaves from other houses very affecting. It’s powerful and hard-hitting because Turner’s pure faith in God is used to maniulate fellow slaves into submission; The word he believes in is tweaked to suit their oppressor’s twisted agenda. And with every look into the hurting souls of his fellow brothers and sisters, the hypocrisy that he’s complicit in becomes the most difficult and defining moments of the film.

Gradually, Nate Parker’s film appears to be less cogent. As we arrive at the final scenes, the violent and bloody finale and its aftermath seem to ‘lose’ its message. But Turner’s story never had a moral to begin with. There’s no denouement nor catharsis. This is reality as we speak. Turner’s rebellion is a natural response to cruelty; A natural human reaction to systemic objectification and abuse. I thought the film got a hold of that pretty well and didn’t overextend to glorify Turner nor make it seem as if his revolution affected the racist mindset of the slave owners. It’s just a story about one man who’s had enough and did all he could in his means to fight for his people’s rights. The showy dream sequences and messianic portrayal does take away some of the film’s raw power but the conviction is clear.

The Birth Of A Nation gets smashed around alot. It’s heavy handed approach is not very well done which I agree. But nitpicking on bending the truth is not being fair. I’ve seen a ton of reviews blasting it for this when so many other biographical drama films do the same and get away with it. People are unhappy there’s no message when in actual fact, it’s not the message but the truth about human response and reaction that’s important. And some say it’s a movie about ‘nothing much’ when it’s an important look at a dark history of America and a victim of it who had the courage to say he’s had enough. For all the bad press the film has been getting, I urge you to view it for what the film truly is.

Rating: 8/10



12 Comments Add yours

  1. says:

    Haven’t seen this movie yet i will soon

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bloggeray says:

    I saw on IMDb that the movie is rated only 5.8. Did any past Sundance darling fare this badly on the site? I have no idea. Can you tell me about that?
    I think a large part of the criticism the movie is receiving is due to Nate Parker’s past, there’s no doubt about that. These are the same critics who cherish Polanski’s every film. The same Polanski who admitted to sexually assaulting a minor. And I also read about Affleck’s and Parker’s contrasting fortunes despite similar charges against both of them. And despite both films having first received praise at Sundance. Something is definitely not right!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Not sure about that but probably none as bad as this. Yeah there’s certainly white privilege involved but still, Parker’s personal drama is pretty serious stuff. There’s no excuse for rape if he really conspired and/or did it. I can only judge the film as I see it and as a standalone, and I thought it was an important film. It’s been so smashed up and its flaws have been overblown to a degree that is unfair.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. bloggeray says:

        That’s what I’m saying too. There are people who have done similar crimes and yet no one talks about that. Haven’t watched the movie yet. Hope it is as good as you’re saying it is.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Keith says:

    Interesting take and great defense. I still like the film but I don’t love it for some of the reasons you mention. I do think it loses its point for me the further it goes and I still question the sanitization of Nat Turner’s rebellion. I think the full story would have been much compelling and difficult to wrestle with than what Parker goes for. But again, I don’t dismiss this movie as quickly as some do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Hey buddy! Thanks 🙂 Yeah totally understandable. I’m quite intrigued by Turner as well and there’s a few things I’d like to know more about him. But I think the film’s importance outweighs its oversights.


  4. Matt says:

    Maybe I’ll consider giving this a try. I really was surprised by the less than enthusiastic reception it got.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      I hope you do Matt! It’s an important film and I don’t see why some really want to take that away from the film. Hope to see your thoughts!


  5. Andrew says:

    I will say this…trying to compare Affleck’s sexual harassment case (which was settled out of court) with Parker’s rape case (where he blamed the victim AND harassed the victim to the point where she KILLED HERSELF) is a serious stretch. People who try and make this a jilt on Parker aren’t looking at this correctly. Parker had his hands in EVERY part of this movie, and it was a movie about the rise up against adversity AND had elements of rape within it. Affleck is merely an actor in a film who happened to get great ink for it. Very different situations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Yeah I agree, I’ve mentioned its different. But they definitely go easy on Affleck, while Parker has gotten loads of criticism and still does. Yeah and aside from that, he was found not guilty by the court. I’m not trying to defend him, but I’m pointing out how settlement out of court or getting cleared of a charge doesn’t really prove anything…I could just as easily say Affleck’s settlement out of court seems hella guilty as well.
      True, if he did all of that, then his film seems hypocritical. But the film itself is not. It’s still an important piece of work and its legitimacy shouldn’t be undermined by what the director is doing in his personal life. I still think Parker’s case is more serious, but all I’m saying is Affleck is getting away too easily from this. If reviewers can get away with excluding Affleck’s personal life from Manchester by the sea, then why did so many bring in Parker’s personal life when discussing the importance and effectiveness of his film?


  6. Gazedreamer says:

    Just watched this movie. I agree that a lot of the criticisms were probably exaggerated. I only wonder if it will be viewed less harshly in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

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