#REVIEW: “THE BIRTH OF A NATION”
Winning both the U.S. Audience Award and Drama Award at Sundance, plus a standing ovation at TIFF ’16, Nate Parker‘s THE BIRTH OF A NATION widely has been seen as a major player this coming awards season.
The story centers on Nat Turner (Parker), the trusted slave of Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), who is intent on helping his family business regain its former strength after losing his father. With his ability to read, Nat is enlisted to help preach obedience from the bible to other slaves, but as he and his master embark on their journeys together, he witnesses the inhumane treatment of his fellow black men and women. This drives him to question his own beliefs and his world unravels after he is impacted personally by the inhumanities of slavery. In the name of justice and honour Nat leads a very violent rebellion against the enslavers of Southampton County.
Make no mistake, The Birth of a Nation in addition to educating us about this little-known moment in American history, very much is a starmaking vehicle for Parker who quietly has plugged away in the trenches, now ready to unleash what should be a fruitful venture for Fox Searchlight with its record-setting investment post-Sundance.
Parker is mesmerizing start to finish as we see Nat‘s story progress and his world unravel. Supporting turns from Colman Domingo as Hark Turner and Armie Hammer, in a role unlike anything we’ve seen him in thus far, are noteworthy. Aja Naomi King from How To Get Away With Murder is barely-recognizable in a subdued performance as Nat‘s wife Cherry.
Despite being a period piece, a thoughtfully-conceptualized soundtrack intensifies the experience, speaking to an audience of now. On the inverse, this and some of the vocabulary at times takes us out of the moment the story is set to mixed results. Nonetheless, while the subject matter might feel familiar, the Film as a whole feels fresh and its thought-provoking. Its release couldn’t be more timely with issues pertaining to Black Lives Matter and gun violence being very much on the forefront of the social conscience.
The Birth of a Nation will be seen and not forgotten, although whether or not its impact will be as felt on audiences like recent predecessor, 12 Years a Slave, remains to be seen.
Fox Searchlight release THE BIRTH OF A NATION Friday, October 7, 2016.