The Birth of a Nation
Director: Nate Parker
Talent: Nate Parker, Aja Naomi King, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller
Released: 9th December
Repurposing the name of D.W. Griffith’s formally groundbreaking albeit gruesome 1915 cinematic paean to the Ku Klux Klan, Nate Parker writes, directs and stars in this film based loosely around the life of Nat Turner, who led a slave uprising in North Carolina in 1831, killing fifty-five whites.
Parker’s Turner, literate, God-fearing and farmed out as a preacher to neighbouring plantations by his slave-master (Hammer) for some extra profit, becomes radicalised after bearing witness to a series of tragedies and iniquities that affirm for him his divine purpose: to free black people from the tyranny of slavery.
The Birth of a Nation is an uneven, often stirring film that goes some way to undermining Hollywood’s now almost total saturation of white saviour narratives regarding Amerikkkan slavery, but is compromised by its formal and aesthetic limitations, which are also necessarily those of Parker himself. To all intents and purposes this is Braveheart in the antebellum. Its heart, certainly, is in the right place.
Words – Oisín Murphy-Hall