#TIFF16: “THE BIRTH OF A NATION”
Sweeping both the Audience Award – U.S. Dramatic and Grand Jury Prize – U.S. at Sundance, Nate Parker takes his tour-de-force The Birth of a Nation north en route to what should be 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 regain its former strength after losing his father. Able 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 his comrades in a very violent rebellion against their enslavers.
Make no mistake, The Birth of a Nation in addition to educating us about this not well-known-enough moment in American history, very much is a starmaking vehicle for Parker who quietly has treaded away in the trenches, now ready to unleash what should be a profitable venture for Fox Searchlight with its record-setting investment made after Sundance. Parker is mesmerizing start to finish as we see Nat‘s story progress and his world crumble. Supporting turns from Colman Domingo as fellow slave 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 and makes the experience fresh. This admittedly also disconnects the audience from the moment also, while dialogue at moments fails to capture the period in which the story is set.
The Birth of a Nation will be seen and not forgotten, although whether or not it shakes its audience like recent predecessor, the phenomenal 12 Years a Slave, remains to be seen.
It screens at TIFF Friday, September 9, 2016 at 8:00 PM Winter Garden Theatre and 9:00 PM VISA Screening Room, Sunday, September 11, 2016 at 12:00 PM Roy Thomson Hall and Saturday, September 17, 2016 at 3:00 PM Princess of Wales Theatre.