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Birth of a Nation

Birth of a Nation tells the story of Nat Turner (played by Nate Parker who also directed and co-wrote the movie) who lead a slave rebellion in 1831. This is a rather complex movie to describe, because it hits and misses in equal measure. Sometimes, particularly during the first part of the movie, it feels inauthentic (it felt a bit too “period piece” at some times); however, during the latter half when we see what Nat experienced and the 2 days of the revolt, it is brutal and brings you right to that reality. It is a story written and directed by a Black actor and filmmaker, and it is nice to see that perspective in film storytelling. While I know of the revolt but not a lot about Nat, it felt to me like some liberties were taken in the actual story. There is a complexity about the revolt and its consequences that was not explored as fully as it should have been. But overall, it is a powerful movie that deserves to be seen (regardless of the controversy surrounding Nate Parker). Thumbs up for a move that is not perfect but tells the story of an important part of the overall history of slavery in the US. There is a line in the film that resonates well today (and I may have misquoted): “People are being killed for no other reason than their being Black”. It was an interesting experience seeing this movie in Baltimore; I am glad I saw it here in a city that experienced the senseless death of Freddie Gray and subsequent demonstrations in 2015).  The theater was nearly full, and the audience signed out of the movie with a large round of applause.

About Gary Burkholder

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