Set against the antebellum South, THE BIRTH OF A NATION follows Nat Turner (Nate Parker), 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 - Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom. Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Nate Parker cut about 20 seconds out of the movie after the premiere at Sundance: "I probably cut 20 seconds. I'm a perfectionist to a fault. I could hardly watch the movie at Sundance. Even until the credits rolled, I knew the imperfections that were thorns in my side." [Variety, Aug. 2016] See more »
Nat quotes says he is quoting from Peter 2:18, the correct book of the bible that he quotes from is 1 Peter 2:18. See more »
The Birth of Nation tells the story of Nat Turner as he treks through his life of brutality and slavery at the hands of brutal plantation owners in 19th century Southern America only to lead a slave rebellion to exact revenge on his oppressors. First off, this film is shrouded in controversy and hype while masking itself with the notion that this is an important film. In the hands of a more capable director, The Birth of a Nation could have been a truly mesmerizing film but Nate Parker's overly ambitious and slightly egotistical vision is hard to swallow for all the wrong reasons. The film starts with young Nat Turner playing with the son of his slave master, Samuel. Nat is a special boy as he learns to read and write at a young age with the help of his slave owner Elizabeth Turner (Penelope Ann Miller). From that point on, we see Nat Turner (Nate Parker) and Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer) as adults. The two are friends but Nat must still walk on egg shells due to his status as a slave. The story progresses very slowly, showing Samuel in a financial bind and Nat living a comfortable life (with all things considering) with his wife Cherry. Samuel eventually exploits Nat as a preacher to the slaves and even makes money off of him as a preacher of gospel in order to keep the slaves docile and calm. As he is carted off to multiple plantations for sermons, he sees the horrors of slavery first-hand and decides, after a brutal (fictious) rape on Cherry, to rebel and cause an uprising. The film is a sad one. It is sad because of slavery, because of the brutality, yes...but the saddest part of The Birth of a Nation is the idea of what could have been. The film is a vicious display of violence and brutality with a one-sided and very historically inaccurate story. While many people are not privy to Nat Turner's rebellion, it still does not excuse the poorly constructed storyline based around the idea of a rape and religious visions in order to fuel the Nat Turner character's motives as if Parker was not confident enough in telling the true life story and the real reasons behind why Turner rebelled. Much like this year's Free State of Jones, The Birth of a Nation screenplay is haphazard and very amateur in its execution. The women characters are mere pawns that have little to no dialog and the dialog they are given is so unsubstantial that it lessens the impacts of their actions...especially when the Cherry character's rape is such an integral part to Parker's telling of the story. The acting is powerful at times and Parker gives a good performance but it is a performance that you can't take seriously at moments. He is an actor that can have you tear up in one scene and unintentionally laugh at another whether it is because of a line delivery or some of his overly dramatic scowls. Gabrielle Union, who plays Esther, the muted rape victim is also amazing in her role. Armie Hammer also shows glimpses of a great performance especially because his character had a much more interesting sub-plot to delve into and the film really never gave it a second thought outside of a single scene scored to overtly dramatic music. The filmmaking is the downfall here. The Birth of a Nation is painfully slow in its first hour and very chaotic in its second. It reeks of an inexperienced filmmaker and left me genuinely surprised especially because of the hype that we've heard about this film. Honestly, I've seen History Channel specials with better productions. The blue tint is overbearing, the actual camera work is too close and honed in on its subjects, the sound is flat and the editing is so erratic that it's very hard to keep track of what's going on. Overall, The Birth of a Nation is less 12 Years a Slave and more Free State of Jones. It may be an important story but it is far from an important film.
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