If there’s one film that has been getting award buzz for the entirety of 2016, it’d be the historical epic “The Birth of a Nation.” Since its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, the film has been on many people’s radar, and everyone has been waiting to see this acclaimed historical epic. It follows the story of Nat Turner, a slave who also happens to be a preacher, as he becomes the leader of the 48-hour slave rebellion in middle of 1831.
This has been a passion project for Nate Parker, who writes, directs and stars in the film. He learned about it in an African-American course during his studies at the University of Oklahoma. The reviews started off calling the film “incredible,” and since the Toronto International Film Festival, reviews have been back and forth. There has been controversy surrounding Parker’s personal life, since this is about the art and not the artist’s personal problems. I liked it, but I felt it was way too over-hyped.
Nate Parker’s direction is solid, especially since this is his directorial debut. This is a beautifully well-crafted and directed film. You can tell that he was extremely passionate about this story and had a strong desire of telling it to the audience. His performance is fantastic, as well as the others, particularly Armie Hammer as Nat’s master, Samuel. There’s going to be lots of award-talk for Parker’s direction as well as his and Hammer’s performances.
The screenplay was quite good, but nothing masterful. I also appreciated the cinematography, costume design and score.
This is by no means a story for everyone to experience. If you cringe during unsettling sequences, then be warned. It was definitely hard for me to watch, but that’s what makes it so realistic and not “Hollywoodized.” Parker doesn’t shy away from the realism and emotional core of this amazing, but intense story.
My big issue with the film was that there was something funky about the pacing. The first two acts were fantastic and paced extremely well. I was never bored and I wasn’t checking my watch, which is always a delight and a surprise considering the kind of the film this is.
However, the third act was extremely rushed. All the build-up to the epic rebellion battle, which was shot and choreographed excellently, felt wasted and non-existent. Nat’s transition went too quickly and I was questioning why it was edited that way.
But regardless, the last scene left me in tears as I was leaving the theater, and it’s one of the year’s best endings. I really liked “The Birth of a Nation,” but I don’t think it’s the masterpiece everyone claimed it to be. It’s an important film, so do yourself a favor and check it out