|Scene from The Birth of a Nation|
With the year only being four months old, there's few films that already have an Oscar conversation around it quite like director Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation. For starters, it was an immediate success when it premiered at Sundance and even acquired one of the highest buys in the film festival's history. With little known to the public other than its plot about Nat Turner's slave rebellion, it has been curious to see if it will escape the festival circuit buzz and strike a chord with audiences. From the looks of the first trailer, it's definitely trying to hit all of those marks.
When one hears the name The Birth of a Nation, there's likely a certain distaste that comes to mind. It is probably because that title is connected to a film that is both considered the first full length movie as well as featuring some of the grossest racial stereotypes. With its centennial now a little over a year ago, it's intriguing to see that Parker is taking up the mantle by naming his film after one of the most controversial American films in history. It doesn't help that it's pretty much about the same era, either.
Yet what is looking to happen is Parker's desire to right the wrongs of history, or at least depict a side of racial politics that has just in recent years become more accepted. With 12 Years a Slave being the major film, there's been plenty of African American-based historical films that attempt to explore a more honest and empathetic side to this country's short existence. It only makes sense then that Parker's film would be hailed with anticipation before a single frame was released. While it does have me worried about how we appreciate black cinema, I am definitely curious to see how the film does on its own merits.
Check out the trailer below:
Looks really good. Here's the plot description according to IMDb:
Nat Turner, a former slave in America, leads a liberation movement in 1831 to free African-Americans in Virginia that results in a violent retaliation from whites.
Oh boy. While it sounds a tad like Django Unchained, the general buzz around the film as well as available footage would suggest that this is historically accurate. The only question is if the film will attempt to explore the rich racial themes with reverence, or if it will fall more into the camp of The Patriot, where history is an excuse to watch excessive action and violence - in this case for catharsis against the white man. While I don't get those vibes, the idea of revenge fantasies come to mind when reading that description.
Still, the film looks really good and I do hope that it ends up being one of those surprise hits come awards season. While Sundance has been doing impressive work lately in showing up at The Oscars, it has yet to win Best Picture. Considering the cultural text of this film and the impact it could have, there's possibility that it will set some record come this time next year. For now, it just looks like a good film and the latest in a long line of Civil War era cinema coming out this year, including Free State of Jones. Even then, this looks just as good as the hype. Here's hoping it pans out.