The Birth of a Nation (2016)
Critic Consensus: The Birth of a Nation overpowers its narrative flaws and uneven execution through sheer conviction, rising on Nate Parker's assured direction and the strength of its vital message.
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as Nat Turner
as Samuel Turner
as Elizabeth Turner
as Raymond Cobb
as Reverend Zalthall
as Nancy Turner
as Isaac Turner
as Bridget Turner
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Critic Reviews for The Birth of a Nation
Soapbox didacticism and complex drama can never coexist.
Parker's directorial approach ... has the overconfidence that smacks of underconfidence, in terms of finding the right way to tell this story.
This is a film that moves with a careful, self-conscious tread.
What makes [Parker's] film so provocative and so troubling is its absolute refusal to provide its audience with a consolatory ending.
Audience Reviews for The Birth of a Nation
Purposely uses the same title as D. W. Griffith's film. Although there is no direct connection between that film's plot and this one there is a metaphorical connection with a reversed pov. This is not such an epic tale as it focuses more closely on the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. There are important themes here about Christianity being a tool to subdue unruly slaves and the spiritual motivator that causes Turner to rebel. Nate Parker wrote, directed, and starred, but then in the pre-#METOO movement former legal trouble with a rape allegation came to light that many believe was not adequately addressed. So again controversy in a director's personal life (which is a regular occurrence) has soured the impact this film story could have had. It is not super innovative, hitting certain plot points that many African slave life dramas contain, but it is solidly structured and seems to be over so quickly.
There is great material for a powerful drama here, but director Nate Parker tries too hard to soften it and avoid any controversies regarding his hero's actions - which is a pity considering that they are perfectly understandable in view of the horrible suffering he endures.
The Birth of a Nation is a powerful work, but it's a disturbing one as well. As a document that challenges racism and white supremacy, it is most assuredly a step in the right direction. Nat Turner was hanged and given no formal burial. We are told (not shown) that he was then decapitated, quartered, and skinned. Soon after his death, attorney Thomas Ruffin Gray published The Confessions of Nat Turner. If you thirst for more of his story, I would suggest that. This film functions as a cinematic memorial that celebrates his memory. It also recounts a historical event and honors the legacy of Nat Turner. He was an early champion of civil rights - in a not-so-civil manner. He deserves a biography. Yet his story is told in broad strokes with plot points invented for dramatic effect (i.e. Nat Turner's wife was never gang raped by slave patrollers. Nor was it the final inhumanity that inspired him to riot). It's an emotional experience but not necessarily a wholly factual one. fastfilmreviews.com
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