The Birth of a Nation Review
Written by Brian CoSign
Know when to use a Bible and when to use a rifle! Nate Parker writes, directs, and stars as Nat Turner in the biopic “The Birth of a Nation”. Ok, so, just who was Nat Turner? Nat Turner was an enslaved, literate Baptist preacher exploited to calm down other slaves on various plantations by using the bible as a method of obedience. After witnessing the reprehensible treatment of slaves and experiencing his own traumatic problems, he stages a bloody and historic slave rebellion lasting for two days. Even the title of the movie is a direct diss and challenge to the so-called classic 1915 film, “The Birth of a Nation,” which heralded the Ku Klux Klan as saviors…go figure.
The movie also stars Gabrielle Union, Armie Hammer, Aunjanue Ellis, Colman Domingo, Penelope Ann Miller, and a host of others. Unlike past slavery-inspired films where subservience is the focal point, “The Birth of a Nation” gives a middle finger to being meek and shows us what happens when a man is pushed to his limits once he can no longer bottle up physical and psychological torture.
Nat has a major character arc in this movie, and Parker gives that performance brilliantly. Before he’s completely pushed over the edge, you can see the conflict boiling inside him as he travels to those different plantations and sees the full scope of slavery while quoting scripture in an effort to get them to obey their slave masters. Armie Hammer plays Nat’s master, Sam. At first glance, Sam is looked at as a nice slave master (which is an oxymoron, I know) to Nat and the rest of his slaves. He also has an inner-conflict of trying to do right by Nat but wanting money to keep things running at his plantation, so when Rev. Zalthall puts the battery in his back about getting paid to have Nat preach to other slaves, he faces a moral dilemma of sorts.
Their relationship will become tested even further in the movie, but I’m not going to spoil it. Aja Naomi King plays Cherry, Nat’s wife. Her performance will be the one that captivates you. Her and Nat’s formal introduction is a funny one, but later on as husband and wife, that memorable scene will be replaced by a heartbreaking one that will definitely have you feeling some kind of way. The thing about some of the scenes is that they are suggestive, but you never see them in full. For instance, Gabrielle Union who plays Esther, the wife of the slave Hark, is called upon to “entertain” one of Sam’s house guests. You don’t see the actual rape, but the camera shows the lights of the room, then the aftermath. Much of the violence of “Birth” is shot this way. I mean, you do see a lot of physical killing and whipping, but it is shot in such a way where the violence is toned down, much less than say “12 Years a Slave”. The film contains a few abstract visuals, too. It is said that Nat Turner always had visions like bleeding corn and other images that helped him make his next move. This may be confusing to the audience, especially if they don’t know the history of Turner. The actual rebellion comes later in the movie and it is rather violent, but not as violent as it could’ve been. The events leading up to this rebellion are the perfect build up and Parker does an excellent job creating tension for a stellar final confrontation. “The Birth of a Nation” is healthy and weighs in at a ton of inspiration!
Movies similar to this will often make you angry or depressed. “The Birth of a Nation” has these same elements but it also has a revolutionary reaction unfair, inhumane treatment, something that really hasn’t been seen before. There have been massive efforts to shut this joint down and make Nate Parker look like a villain. I’m sure you’ve heard the story so I won’t get into it. You cannot stop a light from shining, however. Aside from some mediocre production and bad camera angles, the story itself is mesmerizing. “The Birth of a Nation” is brutal, sincere, and inspiring. I’m co-signing it to the fullest! It’s interesting, well, sad actually, to see what the powers-that-be have done to silence this film and assassinate the director’s character. In the face of adversity, though, we rise up. Not only do #BlackLivesMatter but #NatesMoviesMatter too.
Your thoughts on the film?