Review: The Birth of a Nation

Rise up

Nat Turner (Nate Parker) is a slave owned by Samuel Turner. (Armie Hammer) Sam's mother taught Nat to read from the bible as a child and he's become a preacher to the other slaves. Word gets out about this, and Samuel is asked to loan Nat out to "encourage" other slaves. He's strapped for cash and has developed a drinking problem, so he agrees.  As Nat continues to witness the disgusting things done to himself and other slaves, he eventually leads an uprising. 


Since it's premiere at Sundance, The Birth of a Nation has had a lot to live up to. Premiering during the #OscarsSoWhite movement, many saw this as the answer to it. It got strong reviews right out of the gate and was deemed an Oscar contender. Then of course, you know everything that happened after wards. The reviews out of TIFF didn't mirror Sundance, and director/star/producer/writer Nate Parker's former rape trial came to light. The response out of TIFF made me think I'd wait until this hit DVD, but when offered a ticket to an early showing, I decided to go and hoped to see what the Sundance crowd did. 

I'm torn.

First off, it's not an issue to separate Parker's personal life from his work. I do it with Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, and plenty of actors who are probably grade A assholes in real life. But the thing is, if this film doesn't get it the Oscar glory the internet declared it would, that's what's they're going to blame, and I don't think it's 100% true. Direction wise, this film has a lot of issues.

Parker took on too much, he should've let someone else take the directing reigns, because even the strong script, and the performances by Parker, Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis and Aja Naomi King couldn't save it from being one of the worst directed films I've seen lately. Every shot feels too precise. It doesn't flow naturally and Parker hits us over the head with so much symbolism I have to wonder why he wasn't playing it more straight forward? Did he think he had to make an art house flick to make this story stand apart? I felt like he was just trying too hard and because of that and the score, which ultimately didn't fit the film, made this feel melodramatic. 

And that's unfortunate, because Nat Turner's story is interesting, Nate Parker's screenplay IS interesting but it suffers tremendously from its execution.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "I'm ready." - Nat Turner (Nate Parker)

12 comments:

  1. Even though it sounds pretty flawed, the story is so interesting, I think I'm still going to watch the film. I don't know how long I'll have to wait for its release here in Italy though.

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    1. That's part of my dilemma. People should know Nat Turner and what he did, but God this film has problems.

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  2. Your consensus is basically what I've been hearing. The film is well-meaning and has good acting but it is incredibly flawed and has amateurish directing.

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    1. I sometimes feel bad about saying "amateur" because it's not like I could do better, but that's what it was. He needed guidance.

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  3. Very interesting. I'm glad you clarified that you are separating his personal situation from the film. You shouldn't have to do that, but that's going to be the question that dogs every review of this. I will still see it. I'm just not sure how son. Great job, Britt.

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    1. Thank you! It's impossible not to point that out. There's so much drama surrounding the film and that's going to take the brunt of the blame if no Oscars get thrown its way.

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  4. I had to look up Nate Perry to see what he was/is accused of and it didn't surprise me that it was rape.its a shame that he doesn't seem too remorseful but he could claim guilt for saying sorry. One does have to look at the film without the personal baggage of the people who made it. I thought, at first, they were remaking the 1915 film and am glad they are not. I do want to see it and will sot will be interesting to see if I agree with what you have said

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    1. I like that he used the same title as that 1915 film, because that looks like absolute trash. Yeah, that case is troubling to say the last.

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  5. yiiiikes. I was really hoping his directorial debut would be strong. I already know he's an excellent actor

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    1. He's definitely an excellent actor, but he shouldn't direct. It's bad.

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  6. "Parker took on too much." Nailed it 100% right there. We're basically in agreement on this one, except I got called a racist for not liking it ;) haha

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    1. lol right? I did steal your idea of talking about the director's personal life in my review though. Since you know, you were the first...

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