Slavery in American history is not an easy topic to tackle when making a movie. The tone, the mood, the characters, the story and dialogue all amount to what could be considered a herculean task to undertake. So what does Nate Parker decide to do for his directorial debut? He made “Birth of a Nation” and we’re now gonna dive in a take a look at my thoughts about this film…
First, I’m always honest in my reviews so I’ll continue to be honest, I was not aware this was based on a true story going into the theater. I consider myself a bit of a history fan and that reveal was surprising which caught me off guard. So I was glad I wasn’t just watching a story about history but a story about actual history. That elevated my enjoyment of the film up a few notches.
The story revolves around “Nat Turner” (played by Nate Parker) who is a slave that was taught how to read the Bible and slowly becomes a preacher on the plantation he was sold to. Over time, word spreads to other plantations that the slaves on his particular plantation are more well behaved and his master is propositioned to take Nat on a plantation tour to help other slaves become more obedient and docile by his use of the scriptures in the Bible. Over time, and a very personal abuse, he realizes that subservient behavior is not the path he was destined for and he leads a resistance that ends in bloodshed and gun smoke.
I loved this movie. Nate Parker captured so much emotion and, also as the director, got so much emotion out of the cast I was mesmerized. This film took me on an emotional journey that was not expected. Being unfamiliar with the actual story I wasn’t disappointed in certain creative liberties he and the writers took with this movie. I was completely entranced by every performance. I hated certain characters, was repulsed by others, saddened for some and felt incredible pride for a few. I was sickened. I was delighted. I was offended. I was inspired. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen and I couldn’t help but let all the feelings rush through me.
Now that I’ve gushed about all the wonderfulness this movie had, this is not a movie for the faint of heart. This movie is brutal and vicious in its portrayal of slave treatment. Nate Parker pulls zero punches when it comes the mistreatment of slaves and it will force you to examine your understanding of early, Pre to During Civil War America. One scene in particular, we see a slave who refuses to eat while chained up in a small wooden shed and the insane method of force feeding that takes place. You see it all. The audience is not spared the visual disturbances because Parker made the decision to give you realism that was necessary, in my opinion. My stomach turned and I’m sure yours will as well.
“Birth of a Nation” is in theaters now! If you enjoy movies about America during the civil war times, or historical movies, this is a movie for you. If you want an oscar worthy film, this is also the film for you. I walked out of the theater talking about this film with the older black couple I sat next to in theater. We couldn’t help but continue discussing this film because it’s that good and that powerful. Be prepared to feel all the emotions and don’t be surprised if you find yourself talking with strangers walking out of the theater about your thoughts and feelings about this incredible film.