"The Birth of a Nation" is an amateurish portrayal of an important story


Winning the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance was supposed to be a sign that Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation" was about to take Hollywood by storm. It was made to piss people off and get them out of their seats shouting, debating, but what happened instead was unexpected. The controversy that arose about its writer-director's past marred any kind of momentum that was created in Park City this past January.

Recounting the true story of Nat Turner, an African American Slave that lead a rebellion in 1831 to free African-Americans in Virgina, "The Birth of a Nation" seems to be more successful at giving a voice to this important African-American story than by the way it actually articulates it onscreen. However, there’s blood soaked, sweat induced passion in every frame of Nate Parker’s flawed film. You can never discount this kind of filmmaking, even when it’s by a first-time filmmaker still learning his narrative steps.

Was the buzz and acclaim that the film received in January merited/justified? Of course not. Parker makes mistakes in his filmmaking and those mistake do end up costing him. Portraying Turner as Jesus-like figure doesn't help, nor does the fact that he fumblingly sets up his story in a lame almost skittish way. Also, the actual rebellion, the most interesting and exciting part of the film, only happens near the end. Bad decision. Parker isn't yet fit to carry such a heavy subject matter as a director, his amateurish mistakes are absurd and almost too naive to comprehend, but, of course, his mind and passion are in the right place and his movie relevant as ever, which is why so many were suckered into praising this film to the Gods just a couple of months ago.

Parker means to make an "epic," but there is no "epic" feel to his film. It feels flat and devoid of any artfulness. It doesn't feel cinematic. One might wonder the potential of such a relevant and important story in the hands of an Ava DuVernay or Spike Lee. That would have made for a more fully fleshed out and reflective film than what Parker gives us.

A film like this one is very important to bring to the forefront of the mainstream. Nat Turner's story is one of historical significance that has been shunned away and put aside for way too many years. At the end of the day it won't necessarily be the execution that matters with "The Birth of a Nation," but the fundamental significance behind it. It does not deserve rave reviews and awards, but what it does deserve is you attention.

 [C+]
Comments :

>

Archive