‘The Birth of a Nation’ review
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
With the recent events in the United States, African-American relations are an issue that is important in the US election this year. While there are still terrible shootings of African-Americans by police officers, it is not as bad as what was happening in the country in the 1800s. Many people thought that the journey for African-Americans to get equal rights began with the civil war. Really, it all began with a preacher named Nat Taylor. His story was not told—on such a scale—until now.
The Birth of a Nation explores a very dark time in American history, beginning with how Nat (Nate Parker) took action to try to get African-Americans equal rights. The film begins with Nat’s childhood as a slave. His owner’s family teaches him to be a preacher, and almost treats him as if he were part of their family.
When Nat performs a ceremony that African-Americans were not permitted to perform at the time, his owner and best friend, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), snaps and mistreats him. In response, Nat and his friends start a rebellion against white American slave owners.
Most of the film focuses on Nat’s life, but near the end of the film, there are a number of extremely violent battle scenes. During a screening of the film at the Vancouver International Film Festival this year, some people left the theater because of the graphic scenes. These violent scenes are necessary to the story, as they show how badly African-Americans were treated during that time. The film also shows the slave owners offending women, including Nat’s wife (Gabrielle Union). Union uses her own experiences to portray her character’s reactions.
Nate Parker said at the VIFF screening that he wanted to begin a conversation about African-American race relations, much like what Snowden tried to do on the subject of government surveillance. The film showed that things are better today than in the 1800s, because most white Americans were raised with different values in that time. It also showed that all Americans could work together and resolve their differences without violence, even today.
Throughout the film, Nat smiles every time he performs a sermon, when he gets whipped, and even when he murders people. This keeps the audience from knowing what is in his head, making his character mysterious and engaging at the same time.
The film has beautiful visuals, including the sun rising in Georgia and the cotton field that Nat works in.
When you see The Birth of a Nation, you will probably be impacted by it, and hopefully it will start conversations to make things better in the future.