In reference to the just-released film by Nate Parker, ‘The Birth of a Nation,’ though the film generated mediocre ratings, one would have to personally see it to make a fair conclusion.
To me, I thought Mr. Parker did a wonderful job in his multiple roles as the film’s star actor, writer, director and producer. At age 36, Parker should be also be highly commended for his superb acting abilities which respectfully mirrors the great Denzel Washington and during a whipping scene in his new movie, Parker obviously mimics Denzel’s tough-guy antics portrayed in the modern classic film, “Glory.”
For longtime filmgoers like myself, sadly, the dialogue and script follows the all-to-familiar “slave”-related throngs of films, including ‘ROOTS.’ You all know the story-line, Black folks getting dogged by white slave masters who use horrific language to dehumanize the newly-arrived Africans, brand new to the North American continent.
Once you get past the same-ole-song, the film provides an historic lesson — one most Blacks have heard of, but were never taught the details in American History books – of one Mr. Nat Turner – the rebellious Slave from the early 1800s. Though the rebel scenes are brief, it reflects actual history – considering Turner’s rebellions only lasted for 48 hours, before being snuffed out by pre-teen slave, who acted as a traitor and informed the masters of Turner’s plans for future slave plantation uprisings.
The movie offers the human drama of a scintillating love story, for Turner who “jumps the broom” to marry the woman he advised his master to purchase. It also reveals the power of the educated slave, for which young Turner was fortunate that his Master’s wife, witnessed his youthful brilliance and helped him to become one of the South’s most brilliant ministers – a traveling preacher, if you will.
Although there were some positive points in the movie, the negative racial overtones were typically more over-powering for the moviegoer – especially for Black folks.
My biggest gripe, is that Mr. Parker ill-named the movie after an already-notorious movie – the 1915 silent film epic that’s historically credited for re-energizing the Ku Klux Klan following the Reconstruction Period. The older film, produced by D.W. Griffin, told the story of Black Union soldiers who took over a South Carolina town, but were ultimately staved off by Revolutionary War Confederate soldiers. The older film also depicted Black soldiers as potential killers and assaulters of Southern White women.
Having said that, I truly wish Mr. Parker would have simply named his movie “The Nat Turner Story.” That would have had much more impact, and would have provided the newer film the uniqueness that it truly deserves while honoring Mr. Turner’s legacy in its fullness.
Additionally, though the film was highly marketed, it failed to promote the fact that megastar Gabrielle Union appears in the film. Her super-stardom and popularity could have easily generated significant ticket sales. Their marketing team blew that one! Too late now.
I still suggest you attend the movie and hopefully, take your younger family members – children, grandchildren – for they too would learn a different and prideful lesson about the American Slave Story.
Also, this is not a “Black” film. It’s more about American history, and a film that should be shared throughout diverse cultures and ages alike.
Again, I repeat — this film should not have been forced to share its unique prominence with the early 1900s Southern Pride movie. “C’mon Nate?”
Definitely not a good move, for a good movie.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: For the record, Mr. Parker’s October 2016 film arrived with controversy, when it was learned that while a Penn State University student, the Norfolk, Virginia native was charged with rape. Though later acquitted of the crime, recent news of Parker’s past threw shade on his new film, and apparently impacted attendance totals. Initial weekend ticket sales reportedly hovered around $8 million, while the film cost about $17.5 million to produce. He’s definitely in line to reap profits after DVD and international sales.)