The Birth of a Nation           review by Drusilla Blakey

After seeing the trailers, I entered the theatre with high hopes for this film. I had been looking forward to it for weeks with great anticipation, but would this film really be all I expected and would all the controversy surrounding the story and cast have any effect on the overall film?

 

Birth of a Nation is 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. As the movie opened, I felt that perhaps we were going to be given a more in-depth or even a little bit different perspective on the history of slavery in America.  Recently, with the film “12 Years a Slave” and even the remake of the TV mini-series “Roots”, we have been reminded of the sad and horrific things that have happened in our country. This movie opens with an African ceremony and very moving tribal music.  I found it very interesting that we were actually being given a look into that side of their culture and traditions.  Of course it’s terribly sad that people were stolen from their countries, but I was interested to see that they still tried to keep their own traditions and customs alive amidst the horrible conditions they now found themselves in.  So I was thinking “oh this is fascinating and different” and then the movie went on and I started to lose that feeling.

 

Unfortunately, I felt that the movie was very similar to other films of the same subject matter as a whole.  Yes, this time we are following the specific story of one person, Nat Turner and how he was used as a puppet by slave owners.  His story is definitely unique and heartbreaking! While Nat’s story is very interesting, all the other sufferings of the slaves are not given a primary focus so unfortunately we are not allowed to feel their pain.  Even with all the controversy surrounding Nate Parker’s rape acquittal and all the other celebrity statements on rape, none of the rape scenes in the movie are even given full time to develop. Obviously I have no interest in seeing anyone raped, but if you’re going to include them they need to have an impact. There are only two rape scenes that set up and then fade to black without anything to make it feel like it mattered. The less is more approach is fine and preferred, but it felt more like a generic scene change that left me thinking ‘that’s terrible’ but that’s about it.

 

Overall the movie was good, but I was left wishing that there was just ‘more’! As a female I fully expected to be moved by this film in some fashion be it good or bad, but instead was left more indifferent.  I was expecting something to have me on the edge of my seat or something to make me cry with sadness or rage, but walked away learning some history and seeing a decent movie and that’s about all. I do think it’s an important story to see and I think we should all know about Nat Turner, but unfortunately, it was just a bit bland. 

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