I cried for the vast majority of this movie. My heart physically ached once the credits rolled. I do not have any “my takes” for this review because I believe it would be disrespectful. I can say this, although I understand why people (today) want to tear down statues, that resolve of knowledge is further strengthened after watching this movie. Some parts were hard to watch.
When historical figures are taught in school, it would be a shame to leave Nat Turner out of the discussion.
IMDb Synopsis: Set against the antebellum South, THE BIRTH OF A NATION follows Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.
Additional Movie Information:
At the time of this post, it has received a Rotten Tomatoes review of 73% Fresh. It received a Rotten Tomato audience rating of 72% liking it. Average Rating: 3.7/5 with a number of User Ratings: 15,718.
Specs: It had a budget of $8.5M. It has a 120 minute run time. Release date: 7 October 2016.
Other IMDb Trivia:
- The film was shot in 27 days.
- The song in the teaser trailer is “Strange Fruit,” recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939. The song, which was written in 1937 by poet, teacher, and activist Abel Meeropol (under his pseudonym, Lewis Allan), was a protest against lynchings in general and specifically against the 1930 Marion, Indiana, lynching of Abram Smith and Thomas Shipp. “Strange Fruit,” which became one of Holiday’s signature songs, has also been recorded or sampled by many other well-known singers, including Nina Simone, Diana Ross, Tori Amos, Cassandra WIlson, and Kanye West.
- This movie deliberately shares its title with D.W. Griffith‘s 1915 movie The Birth of a Nation (1915). That film, an adaptation of Thomas Dixon Jr.‘s 1902-1905 pro-Klan novels The Leopard’s Spots and The Clansman, was a runaway critical, commercial, and cultural success. President Woodrow Wilson, who screened it in the White House, was said to have declared that it was “like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” It was also the subject of protests against its virulently racist view of African Americans. Historians see the movie as a major impetus for the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan and a concomitant rise in lynchings and other racist violence during the early part of the 1900s. Protesting the film’s racist views was an early action for the then-young NAACP. Long into the twentieth century, mainstream, mostly white cinema scholars continued to praise the film as a landmark technical achievement in the history of motion pictures, while minimizing or ignoring altogether its racist message. Spike Lee was so outraged that his NYU Film School professors taught The Birth of a Nation (1915) with no mention of its racist message or legacy that he made a student short film titled The Answer (1980) as a response. The film so offended many of his professors that Lee was nearly expelled from NYU. He was ultimately saved by a faculty vote.
- Fox Searchlight Pictures bought the worldwide distribution rights for the film for $17.5 million, the biggest deal in the history of the Sundance Film Festival.
- Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Norman Jewison tried to establish a film project about the life of Nat Turner in 1969.
- Shot in Savannah, Georgia.
- In the first scene, when a native doctor attends to a young boy, he speaks Twi, the language of the Akan people in Ghana.
- Gabrielle Union is a rape survivor. Her character is raped in the film. On September 2, 2016, Union wrote an open-ed for the Los Angeles Times addressing the film’s director Nate Parker‘s rape accusation in 1999. In 2012, the woman who accused Parker committed suicide after years battling depression. Union stated that she only found out about Parker’s rape case in August 2016, and as important and ground-breaking as this film is, she cannot take these allegations lightly and although it’s often difficult to read and understand body language, the fact that some individuals interpret the absence of a “no” as a “yes” is problematic at least, criminal at worst.