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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
The accents used in the film are typical of the modern deep south, not of the Tidewater region of Virginia in the first half of the 19th century. See more »
[after Nat watches a horrific scene between a slave and slave owner and has to preach to the slaves]
Brethren, I pray you'll sing to the Lord, a new song. Sing praise in assembly of the righteous. Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds. Let the high praise of God be on the mouths of the saints and a two-edged sword in their hand to execute vengeance on the demonic nations! And punishment on those peoples! To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fens ...
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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 killed 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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