Movie review: “Birth of a Nation,” Directed by Nate Parker, Written by Nate Parker, Starring Nate Parker. 2 hours
Everybody in America needs to know about slavery. If right were right, we’d probably be required to attend a showing of Nate Parker’s new movie. Unfortunately, that may be the only way it would get a wide viewing. We don’t necessarily WANT to know what we NEED to know.
Nat Turner was a preacher who led an important slave rebellion in 1831. It led to a panic in the Old South. When white people panic, black people die. The title “Birth of a Nation” is famous in America because a silent movie long ago laid the emotional foundation for a re-birth of the Ku Klux Klan. If a person knew why Parker chose this title, one might also understand why audiences may not like his movie.
I don’t think anybody will complain about the technical aspects. Audiences feel right there with the slaves when they are shot, raped, tortured, humiliated and confined. They won’t complain that the actor wrote and directed himself, because the movie doesn’t fall victim to the self-indulgence of so many artists. But I don’t think people are going to come out of the theater feeling uplifted or enlightened the way they do when they come out of a really great art experience.
I think people will feel that they’ve been through an ordeal. It might be good for us, but so is going to the dentist. I’m not sure why the movie doesn’t make the connection it needs to make. The Pulitzer winning book by William Styron did. It’s possibly because it seems that the filmmaker took the Hollywood route of made-up romances, personal entanglements, and emotions that aren’t likely part of the record. Maybe viewers couldn’t connect because they felt manipulated?
There were only 6 of us in the theater when we saw a matinee performance. I saw 4 go in for the next showing. I hope it does a lot better than that.