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
Some scenes were shot on a former plantation between Springfield and Clyo, Georgia, about thirty miles north of Savannah. See more »
At about 25 minutes in you can see Nat Turner patching a hole in the corner of the house. He gets distracted without finishing by the new slave being introduced to the masters wife as a gift and the camera is panned towards the front door. When it goes back to showing him you can see the hole still isn't filled but is nearly compared to how he left it. Then the camera cuts in on a closer shot and the hole is completely filled/covered before we see Nat do a swipe down with his scraper. See more »
I strongly disapprove of the fact that this movie has gotten a lot of IMDb thumbs-down from people who most likely haven't seen it, but just disapprove of a movie about slavery, as well as one whose director has a problematic past.
However, that's not what I'm writing about here. I DID see the film (at a film festival), and my disappointment is based on the movie itself, not politics or anything else external. "The Birth of a Nation" is about a very important chapter in US history, yet it sanitizes that history to a ridiculous degree. I think most non-blatant-racists can agree that an uprising amongst slaves is a thing that inherently generates empathy. Yet this movie apparently doesn't agree--it needs to sanitize the mental health of Nat Turner (who was on record as saying God directly told him what to do from an early age) as well as pretend women & children weren't chilled in the Turner uprising. I'm not saying these things were justifiable. What I'm saying is that they're part of a complex historical record, and shouldn't have been left out of a movie that purports to tell the "truth." That would be fine if "Birth" were one of many Nat Turner movies out there, but it's the only one most people are likely to see.
It's also a pandering, middle-of-the-road "inspirational" movie, so much less complex a take on slavery than the recent "12 Years a Slave." While that movie was a work of art, this is more like a TV movie in style and content. I just wasn't impressed by it. I wish somebody would make great Nat Turner movie. This isn't it. And sorry, a bad populist telling of the tale isn't better than no telling.
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