For the full Movie Bears Podcast review of ‘Birth of a Nation,’ check out the video below. Read on for our mini-review!
It’s a heavy thing, ‘The Birth of a Nation.’ For a movie that came screaming out of Sundance as the most expensive movie ever optioned – Fox Searchlight paid $17.5 million for the film – the controversy surrounding writer, director, and star Nate Parker proved too much to overcome. Pulling in just $7.1 million over its opening weekend, ‘The Birth of a Nation’ has officially flopped. And that’s unfortunate because, aside from the Nate Parker college rape allegations, the film is actually worth seeing. It’s just that hardly anyone is doing so…
‘The Birth of a Nation’ tells the story of an 1831 slave revolt in historic Southhampton County. Led by Nat Turner – a slave-turned-preacher – the men and women living under subjugation rise up in an attempt to overthrow their tyrannical masters. Much like ’12 Years a Slave’ a few years ago, we see the daily hardships of living under these conditions but this time, things go a step further: Nat Turner is forced to use the word of God to justify the slavers’ position to his compatriots — at least, for a time. Without going into spoilers, things end up going according to history in an artful, gut wrenching way that’s both beautiful and soul-rending in the same breath.
Performances aren’t where this film staggers: Parker’s portrayal of Turner – while rough around the edges in some spots – is powerful, especially when in the throws of passionate preaching. Aja Naomi King, who plays Cherry (Nat’s love interest), is amazingly nuanced and hauntingly heartbreaking. Armie Hammer expertly emotes a slave owner with good intentions where ‘BearCity 2’s Jason Stuart is sleazy and greasy to the core. Unfortunately, so few people are seeing ‘The Birth of a Nation’ that these performances – while good – just aren’t being seen.
Controversy is a hard thing to shake, however, and people cannot be blamed for choosing not to support the movie (even if it is a good one). After all, the gay community largely boycotted ‘Ender’s Game’ due to Orson Scott Card’s anti-LBGT stances, despite reviews of the film itself being quite positive. Refusing to see ‘The Birth of a Nation’ because of the rape allegations surrounding Nate Parker – even though he was acquitted on those charges – is an entirely understandable viewpoint. It’s just unfortunate that, after a year of #OscarsSoWhite, a great potential contender for change has been brought to its knees.
Written by Brad Harris, Movie Bears Podcast