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Review: Birth of a Nation

Birth of a Nation
10.06.2016
8 10
birht of a nation bannner
This review was originally posted at the Sundance Film Festival in January - long before the Nate Parker controversy. As such, it's not addressed in the review.

PLOT: The true story of slave Nat Turner (Nate Parker) who led a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831.

REVIEW: It’s hard not to get a particular charge out of THE BIRTH OF A NATION. While 12 YEARS A SLAVE marked an important turn in audience’s willingness to embrace a movie about slavery, let’s not forget that movie was made (and starred) mostly Europeans. THE BIRTH OF A NATION is an American film, and as such is uniquely positioned to truly reflect on that dark period in history.

armie hammer nate parker birth of a nation

A passion project for writer-director-star Nate Parker, it’s commendable in how he put his own burgeoning career on hold once he achieved the necessary level of clout to assemble financing in a way that could do this story justice. Reportedly costing only $10 million, Parker’s movie looks like it cost five times that. No wonder Fox Searchlight shelled-out $17.5 million to acquire the rights. Given the rapturous reception at Sundance, they may well have a big-time Oscar player on their hands.

Turner’s story is incredible. Taught to read by the wife of his master, Turner became renowned in the South as a preacher, traveling from plantation to plantation with his master (Armie Hammer) to preach to his fellow slaves, with the idea being that this would pacify them. After seeing the brutal way slaves were being treated, which included his own wife being raped and beaten to a pulp by local lawmakers, Turner, who found inspiration in the bible, organized a revolt.

nate parker birth of a nation

Certainly not the easiest topic to choose for your first movie, it’s clear this is a story that possessed Parker, and the result is an amazingly accomplished effort. Parker himself plays Turner in a searing performance. Having acted in movies like RED HOOK SUMMER, BEYOND THE LIGHTS, and RED TAILS, Parker proves himself as a real heavyweight. The evolution of Turner from a somewhat pacified slave to a leader is well-defined. Early scenes establish his semi-friendship with Armie Hammer’s Sam, with the latter becoming more brutal to his slaves after struggling to keep his plantation afloat. The tribulations faced by the slaves are inconceivable. While more brutal moments include a slave being force-fed by having his teeth chiseled out, another heart-breaker is when one of Nat’s friends has to give up his wife (Gabrielle Union) for a night with a lascivious guest of her owner.

Even more than 12 YEARS A SLAVE, slavery at that time is evoked in a provocative way. The owners are portrayed three-dimensionally, in that there are gentle ones and sadistic ones. Yet, in their own way the gentle ones are shown to be just as guilty as the worst sadists, and when Turner and his men start taking lives indiscriminently, it’s easy to see why. No one is innocent.

Parker’s stretched his budget to the limit here, with evocative photography by Elliot Davis, and an extremely effective score by Henry Jackman. His cast is terrific, with Hammer excellent as the complex slave owner (PenelopeAnn Millerplays his mother), Aja Naomi King as Turner’s wife, and Jackie Earle Haley as a particularly hiss-worthy southerner.

It’s easy to walk out of THE BIRTH OF A NATION angry, as it’s a movie that doesn’t spare you any of the truths of the era. But, Parker’s movie is about more than that. While the title daringly claims the title of D.W Griffith’s seminal Southern drama THE BIRTH OF A NATION as it’s own, it’s doubly effective in that Turner is shown to reflect the awakening of a new black consciousness. It’s an important film and one that will spark a lot of conversation in the year to come.

Source: JoBlo.com

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7:32PM on 02/07/2017

Birth of a Nation

New review and historical critique of Nate Parker's 'Birth of a Nation.' A different perspective on the film that sheds light on the man and the rebellion. [link]
New review and historical critique of Nate Parker's 'Birth of a Nation.' A different perspective on the film that sheds light on the man and the rebellion. [link]
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12:41PM on 10/06/2016

If this doesn't win ALL the awards, the awards are racist

fact
fact
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9:40AM on 10/06/2016
He's a rapist and a homophobic piece of shit, but man, I still see Woody Allen movies, and he's a goddam child rapist. So it would be hypocritical for me to avoid this movie on that basis.
He's a rapist and a homophobic piece of shit, but man, I still see Woody Allen movies, and he's a goddam child rapist. So it would be hypocritical for me to avoid this movie on that basis.
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9:37PM on 10/06/2016
OR

Maybe you should just stop seeing Woody Allen movies.
OR

Maybe you should just stop seeing Woody Allen movies.
9:27AM on 10/06/2016
I'm totally going to see this movie with an open mind forgetting the drama surrounding Nate Parker right now.
I'm totally going to see this movie with an open mind forgetting the drama surrounding Nate Parker right now.
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-3
9:22AM on 10/06/2016

Episode I: BLM

A movie that glorifies the rape of white women, the murder of white children, legitimizes black violence, and demonizes white culture. Yeah, let's not cover other periods with uplifting messages. No, let's go for race bait to guilt people into once more excusing inexcusable behavior. For those who compare Nat Turner to Washington, and I've read those reviews, you sicken me. Nat Turner was a sociopath who was more Attila than he was Spartacus and claimed the voice of God told him to kill white
A movie that glorifies the rape of white women, the murder of white children, legitimizes black violence, and demonizes white culture. Yeah, let's not cover other periods with uplifting messages. No, let's go for race bait to guilt people into once more excusing inexcusable behavior. For those who compare Nat Turner to Washington, and I've read those reviews, you sicken me. Nat Turner was a sociopath who was more Attila than he was Spartacus and claimed the voice of God told him to kill white people indiscriminately. And the greatest irony is a rapist uses rape to stoke narrative outrage. Forgive me, but I'm exhausted with the current state of affairs brought to a true boil with a police officer ambushed by a thug. Fuck this propaganda.
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8:28AM on 10/06/2016

Historically inaccurate

Nat Turner'so wife was never raped. Also it's pretty disingenuous for someone to make a movie claiming the struggle is still really when it's clear he has no respect for women.
Nat Turner'so wife was never raped. Also it's pretty disingenuous for someone to make a movie claiming the struggle is still really when it's clear he has no respect for women.
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-1
8:12AM on 10/06/2016
Fuck Nate Parker and Fuck this movie.

This will hopefully be forgotten by Oscar season.
Fuck Nate Parker and Fuck this movie.

This will hopefully be forgotten by Oscar season.
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7:51AM on 10/06/2016

I can see it getting default nominations out the ass.

But it's almost assuredly going to lose every single one that Nate Parker's name is on.
But it's almost assuredly going to lose every single one that Nate Parker's name is on.
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7:40AM on 10/06/2016
ZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZ
ZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZ
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3:07AM on 10/06/2016
Two 'Birth of a Nation' films. One made by a racist, the other made by a rapist. I'll refuse to watch both.
Two 'Birth of a Nation' films. One made by a racist, the other made by a rapist. I'll refuse to watch both.
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1:06AM on 10/06/2016

Not seeing this...

Because I won't support a rapist like Nate Parker...
Hate all you want...
Because I won't support a rapist like Nate Parker...
Hate all you want...
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2:03AM on 10/06/2016
Rapist? He was found Not Guilty of any wrong doing, so even if a rapist goes to trial and beats his case..hes still a rapist?? Oh, maybe if he was White like Roman Polanski or Woody Allen, it would be ok.
Rapist? He was found Not Guilty of any wrong doing, so even if a rapist goes to trial and beats his case..hes still a rapist?? Oh, maybe if he was White like Roman Polanski or Woody Allen, it would be ok.
2:53AM on 10/06/2016
@Goldenarmz,

The facts are easily accessible online. Not only did the defense use the victims past sexual encounter with Parker against her, the victim also had to re-testify in court to convict Parker, (his friend/screenwriter was already convicted), and Parker himself as well as friends and family constantly stalked and harassed the victim until she refused to re-testify. She dropped out of college, moved, and then later committed suicide.

The legal system is a tricky thing but in
@Goldenarmz,

The facts are easily accessible online. Not only did the defense use the victims past sexual encounter with Parker against her, the victim also had to re-testify in court to convict Parker, (his friend/screenwriter was already convicted), and Parker himself as well as friends and family constantly stalked and harassed the victim until she refused to re-testify. She dropped out of college, moved, and then later committed suicide.

The legal system is a tricky thing but in Parker's case there is enough evidence that if someone like Telecine Wobble, myself, and many MANY others choose to not see this because of his past behavior, we're justified.
12:42AM on 10/06/2016
Because of the drama that Pinkett-Smith caused last year. I think it's a given that there will be Oscar noms for Nate Parker for this movie. I'm not saying that that's the only reason why it will happen. It could happen because it was going to even if Pinkett-Smith never started what she did. Just saying I'm almost 100% sure it will happen.
Because of the drama that Pinkett-Smith caused last year. I think it's a given that there will be Oscar noms for Nate Parker for this movie. I'm not saying that that's the only reason why it will happen. It could happen because it was going to even if Pinkett-Smith never started what she did. Just saying I'm almost 100% sure it will happen.
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7:44AM on 10/06/2016
It will get the nominations but I think Moonlight is going to steal all of its thunder. That film is supposedly incredible based on early word
It will get the nominations but I think Moonlight is going to steal all of its thunder. That film is supposedly incredible based on early word
3:26PM on 10/06/2016
Actually, even WITH Pinkett-Smith's blabbering last year, that will have little effect if any at all on the recognition that this movie gets, namely when it comes to the Oscars. Might come away with a Best Picture nomination, but that's about it... Nate Parker won't receive an acting nom, nor will he receive a directing nom. As the one individual has already pointed out, there's Moonlight coming out as well as Denzel's film "Fences", both of which will get significantly more recognition than
Actually, even WITH Pinkett-Smith's blabbering last year, that will have little effect if any at all on the recognition that this movie gets, namely when it comes to the Oscars. Might come away with a Best Picture nomination, but that's about it... Nate Parker won't receive an acting nom, nor will he receive a directing nom. As the one individual has already pointed out, there's Moonlight coming out as well as Denzel's film "Fences", both of which will get significantly more recognition than Parker's 'Nation'.
9:39PM on 10/06/2016
And no, it was not by any means "going to even if Pinkett-Smith never started what she did"... That's buying into the whole 'movies about slavery mean automatic nominations for those involved'... Not gonna be the case with this one for any number of reasons. I saw this a few nights ago at an advanced screening and I can say with great certainty that Nate Parker ain't gettin' shit, not even so much as a nomination.
And no, it was not by any means "going to even if Pinkett-Smith never started what she did"... That's buying into the whole 'movies about slavery mean automatic nominations for those involved'... Not gonna be the case with this one for any number of reasons. I saw this a few nights ago at an advanced screening and I can say with great certainty that Nate Parker ain't gettin' shit, not even so much as a nomination.
9:29AM on 01/27/2016
Fox Searchlight is smart for picking this up. Even if the movie is bad, which I think we can all see that it isn't, the controversy surrounding the Oscars and how this film maybe the salvation for black actors, makes it a surefire money maker.
Fox Searchlight is smart for picking this up. Even if the movie is bad, which I think we can all see that it isn't, the controversy surrounding the Oscars and how this film maybe the salvation for black actors, makes it a surefire money maker.
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8:49AM on 01/27/2016

Birth of a Nation?

I think it's awesome that he chose to use the name of arguably the most racist movie ever made. I think one of the best things we can do is start reclaiming symbols and words of hate and infusing them with something better. This is a good step in that direction. I'm actually really excited to see a Nat Turner biopic, I'll definitely check it out.
I think it's awesome that he chose to use the name of arguably the most racist movie ever made. I think one of the best things we can do is start reclaiming symbols and words of hate and infusing them with something better. This is a good step in that direction. I'm actually really excited to see a Nat Turner biopic, I'll definitely check it out.
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12:32PM on 01/27/2016
It's been done before. If you've never read it I highly recommend Aaron McGruder's brilliant political satire and graphic novel Birth of a Nation. Also it was done in Dear White People.

[link]
It's been done before. If you've never read it I highly recommend Aaron McGruder's brilliant political satire and graphic novel Birth of a Nation. Also it was done in Dear White People.

[link]
8:01AM on 01/27/2016
Nate Parker really impressed me in Arbitrage, and I was wondering what had become of him. I'm surprised it's taken this long for a Nat Turner movie (although I know, I shouldn't be).
Nate Parker really impressed me in Arbitrage, and I was wondering what had become of him. I'm surprised it's taken this long for a Nat Turner movie (although I know, I shouldn't be).
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+1
3:41AM on 01/27/2016
Sounds great, but I'll have to prep myself for this. It sounds like the kind of movie one has to be mentally and emotionally prepared for.
Sounds great, but I'll have to prep myself for this. It sounds like the kind of movie one has to be mentally and emotionally prepared for.
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