The Birth of a Nation (2016)

birth of a nation poster 2016 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Interesting story and perspective

Film got shut down to due to outside situations, changes Turner's history

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Birth of a Nation

Studio: Bron Studios

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  January 25, 2016 (Sundance)/October 7, 2016 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

birth of a nation nat turner nate parker beaten

Trust me, guy…you’re going to get what is coming to you…

Nat Turner (Nate Parker) was born into slavery.  At a young age, he learned the price of being of slave, but with the ability to pick up reading on his own, Nat finds himself educated.  Assigned to work as a preacher to stop rabble rousing among other slaves, Nat begins to see the firsthand horror of slavery as he tours area plantations with his master Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer).  When his wife Cherry (Aja Naomi King) suffers at the hands of slavers and the crime goes unpunished, Nat decides things have to change…and a revolution is brewing.

Written by, directed by, and starring Nate Parker, The Birth of a Nation is a historical drama based on the life of Nat Turner (October 2, 1800-November 11, 1831).  The film premiered at Sundance to much acclaim but the release ended up controversial due to a 1999 rape charge of which Parker was acquitted.

The Birth of a Nation was on fire when it was released at Sundance.  The buzz around the film was huge…and then it got cancelled.  The film especially suffered blows due to the fact that the storyline within the film does circle around a rape and some felt it was hypocritical to praise Parker with allegations (and the accuser also stated that Parker and his friend who was convicted harassed her).  The accuser committed suicide in 2012 and all of this hangs heavy over the film…but it also raises the question about the separation of art from the artist.

birth of a nation nat turner revolt nate parker armie hammer

We were never friends

When trying to watch The Birth of a Nation, it is difficult to set aside Parker’s involvement in it.  As the lead actor he is solid, and he also sculpts a good cast of Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Penelope Ann Miller, and Gabriel Union.  It is a diverse and talent cast that isn’t always seen in films which makes the fact that the film was “cancelled” unfortunate.

The problem with the film also come from classic biopic problems.  Nat Turner’s story was interesting and complex.  The story basically tells major aspects of it, but it adds drama to the story that is unneeded.  The twists and turns of Turner’s real life would have been a long, arduous story to tell and some of the basic ideas of freedom and liberty expressed in the film would have potentially been lost…but is it more important to be accurate or story driven?  That is a debate that each viewer has to take, but since the movie is presented as a real story, it is up to the viewer to find the real story.

birth of a nation nat turner rebellion nate parker

The time has come to rebel!!!

The movie looks quite good.  The negative and horrible connotations of the Antebellum South are in such contrast to the sweeping visuals of the period.  The movie is filled with fields white with cotton and big houses built on the blood of others…Parker does a good job capturing that.

The Birth of a Nation is a movie with a legacy on many levels.  It has the same title as the famous 1915 film which features the “heroes” of the movie being Clansman and is offered as a rebuttal to the famous film.  The movie also runs into the unfortunate legacy of Parker who crafted a great film but was brought down by acts outside of the filmmaking…right or wrong.  The result is a movie that has a lot of feeling but cannot be separated from the news that surrounded it…which honestly is a bit of a shame and could be argued is a sign of the continued problems in America.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response