Possibly if I hadn’t seen “12 Years as a Slave” just 3 years ago, as it made a very deep impression on me or, maybe, if “The Birth of a Nation” had come out first I wouldn’t have been feeling disappointed while, and after, watching it.

Nate Parker, who stars, directed, produced and co-wrote the screenplay, among other things, gives a very strong performance as Nat Turner who led a 48 hour revolution against the white people, who owned and severely mistreated the black slaves they owned. As a director, except for some very brief scenes, and co-writer, the movie is a conventional Hollywood film dealing with a sensitive and cruel part of history repeating many scenes from other movies though banging out the teeth of a slave to force him to eat isn’t a scene I recall seeing before. Though there is no arguing against showing the reality of slaves being beaten, of black women being raped, the impact of those scenes aren’t as deeply felt as they were in “12 Years as a Slave”.

The story of Nat Turner is one that should be known by all Americans while only a handful will know him due to the Pulitzer winning novel by William Styron in 1967, “Confessions of Nat Turner”. Many may think it is a remake of the silent movie by D. W. Griffith’s, with the same name, but that film glorified ‘White Supremacy’!

Parker and his co-writer Jean McGianni Celestin assume the audience knows more about Turner, and the life around him at that time, which though not a major failure of the film does affect the reaction of those watching it. Nat is first seen as a young child, (Tony Espinosa), romping around with his friend, his age, white Samuel Turner, (Griffin Freeman), and shortly both are grown men with Samuel (Armie Hammer) Nat’s ‘master’ and the audience has to figure out how this relationship came about and how it led to where it did.

The cast all around is excellent with Penelope Ann Miller, Samuel’s mother, who sees something in Nat that she nurtures, Aja Naomi King as Nat’s wife, Jackie Earle Haley as one of the many villains and other roles played by Gabrielle Union, Mark Boone, Jr., Aunjanue Ellis and Dwight Henry.

“The Birth of a Nation” won’t be seen by many people because of the ‘scandal’ surrounding Nate Parker, the violence of the film which is to be expected, the theme and, as I said, coming too soon after “12 Years as a Slave”.

The bottom line is, that though Nate Parker gives an award winning performance, “The Birth of a Nation” is a disappointing film.





Posted October 13, 2016 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, MOVIE REVIEW, MOVIES, Uncategorized

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