Birth Of A Nation is not the film you think it is. Don’t confuse this with the 1915 KKK propaganda piece of the same name, directed by D.W. Griffith (son of a confederate soldier). Griffith based his film on “The Clansman,” a book by Thomas Dixon. Yes, writer/director/actor of 2016’s film Nate Parker made the choice to title his film the same thing. Ok, that’s out of the way, and I’m going to do my best to review this as I would any other film.
Birth Of A Nation (BOaN) follows Nat Turner, a Virginia man who lived as a slave during the early 1800s. Nat was literate, and a preacher. He was even taken from plantation house to plantation house to spread the word in an attempt to quell sentiments of unrest in the local populace. Nat eventually led a slave uprising that resulted in the deaths of 55-65 people, slave owners and their families. In response, local militias and mobs killed more than 200 black people (slaves and freedmen) while putting down the rebellion.
Focusing primarily on Nat’s formative experiences, the audience watches the young boy grow into the man who inspires all around him. If you are someone who cannot watch depictions of war, racism in it’s worst instances, this is not the movie for you.
The film itself is extremely well made. Moments of beauty balance out the harsh world depicted. We’ve seen it’s type before, soft and loving scenes mixed with bloody violence and death. The acting chops are really the focal point, however. Strong performances in harsh roles, well written and directed, made the film
Casted strongly, Armie Hammer (Nat’s owner Samuel Turner) and Jackie Earle Haley (slave hunter Raymond Cobb) are two very different sides of the average white male of the age.
Nate Parker and Aja Naomi King are absolutely stellar, their performances feel genuine and you believe every scene they have together.
The real stand out actor however is Tony Espinosa, who plays young Nat Turner. His control and depth in the face of certain scenes is admirable and I look forward to seeing what else this young actor does.
SCORE: 7 out of 10, probably will not see again
BOaN certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. The subject matter will never be easy, and trying to review something that many in the media light have already labeled profane makes it more difficult. I can see it being mentioned alongside such period cinema as Dances With Wolves for it’s epic portrayal of history. Give it a chance.