Birth of a Nation

“Continuing the trend of the-film-being-compared-to-was-better, we come to The Birth of a Nation. I was talking to a friend later that afternoon after I’d seen it. “”Was it perfect?”” he asked “”Because I’ll only see it if it’s perfect, given everything else around it””. He’s not gonna go see it.

Let’s get into that before we talk about the movie. Earlier this year when the film worked its way through the festival circuit, the buzz was incredible. The studio purchased it for a record amount, and all everyone could talk about was its award potential and the timeliness of its story. Then some past allegations of sexual assault from writer/director/actor Nate Parker began to surface and just like that the support for the film faltered and even its release was in jeopardy for a while.

While I certainly don’t condone the allegations, which were eventually dismissed, I decided to give the film a chance to speak for itself. It tells the story of a slave uprising in the south, led by Nat Turner, a slave and preacher. It was fine, but 12 Years a Slave was better.

I don’t want to sound insensitive, but I don’t think we got a whole lotta new info here. Yes it was a new story, and for sure the rebellion at the end was new. But the portrait of slavery wasn’t much different than 12 Years. There were a few more graphic depictions, but it felt like a bit of a rehash. I would have liked to see more focus on the rebellion, instead of it simply feeling like an afterthought. Maybe I’d feel differently if 12 Years hadn’t knocked it out of the park so recently, but if I’m advising someone who is on the fence about the film given the controversy (as I did earlier this week), I’d say it’s skip-able. While the story is a great one to bring into today’s conversations about race, as far as films go, there’s gotta be a better choice.

The Birth of a Nation – \m/ \m/ \m/”

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