• Stars

Monday night I saw an excellent movie that was beautifully done: “Birth of a Nation”.

Because of all the blowback concerning the movie and the man that starred in it, wrote it and directed it, Nate Parker, I was not looking forward to the film but I was really pleasantly surprised. It is a really well done film. It is a little reminiscent of “12 years a Slave” showing the inhumanity of slavery and slave owners.

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 a offers to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Turner orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.

Parker not only wrote the film, the movie was his directorial debut. Based on a true story, much of the screenplay had to be infused with imagination because very little is known about Nat Turner. Most everything known or written about Nat Turner that was positive was obliterated by angry whites after the 1831 rebellion. The only history that remained was Confessions of Nat Turner by Thomas R. Gray.

“Birth of a Nation” won the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize.

Like his writing and directing, Parker’s acting was spot-on as Nat Turner. Aja Naomi King plays his love interest, Cherry. Armie Hammer is Nat Turner’s owner, Sam Turner. Jackie Earle Haley portrays the evil Raymond Cobb beautifully. He is a truly evil character. Penelope Ann Miller is Sam’s mother Elizabeth Turner. Esther Scott played Bridget, Aunjanue Ellis is Nancy.

It was a lovely paced film. There was never any drag. There was some violence but most of it came at the end of the film and it wasn’t as violent as most films you see today. There was no blood oozing out of open wounds or anything that gross.

My biggest complaint about this film is that it shares the same title as the 1915 movie by DW Griffith. The 1915 movie was a film that glorified the Ku Klux Klan. The screenwriter, Thomas Dixon, Jr. adapted the film from his novel: The Clansman: An historical romance of the Ku Klux Klan. I think Parker should have named his movie “Nat” or something else.

“Birth of a Nation” opens at AMC Showplace Edwardsville 12 Friday.

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