The Birth of a Nation Film Review
One of the most eagerly awaited epics of 2016 is Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” and even though there are some effective parts in this film, the overall effort is not close to being epic. It is one of those movies that presents a very important subject which is relevant today as it was back then with no compromises, it throws the violence and the blood when it needs to without any hesitation. It is brought to the screen by a bunch of committed filmmakers but the skill needed to bring such a story to the audience is obviously lacking.
This film is about one of the most brutal and famous slave rebellions in American history. It is about a group of people who said enough is enough to slavery and torture, and decided to slaughter their so called masters and give them a taste of death. The message is timely and it clearly shows that there is no happy ending to racism and discrimination regardless of the time and place. There is a clear passion and excitement behind the camera and some decent acting in front of the camera.
The urge to show the events and the harsh lives that those people suffered from is evident throughout the film. However, Nate Parker and his crew got carried away by the heart and left out the mind. This urgency shows the lack of skill to bring such a project to the audience. The characters are without any real depth especially the main protagonist (Nate Turner played by Nate Parker himself) who seems distant and strange instead of meaningful and sympathetic. Instead of letting the proceedings flow naturally, Parker’s heavy handed direction forces everything in the movie, from the characters to the violent climax. That is the difference between a director who knows how to bring epics with their scope and their intimacy at the same time, and a director fueled by passion but no focus.
The lack of focus in the story and the other obvious flaws in this film might keep it away from most of the awards this season but that doesn’t take away from its merits, which are a very good cast and a timely message that will remain relevant forever. Just like “Snowden” earlier this year, “The Birth of a Nation” is an important film but also heavily flawed, it clearly doesn’t reach its full potential and instead it settles for watchable and above average.