‘Birth of a Nation’ Electrifies Sundance Crowd
Art And Culture

‘Birth of a Nation’ Electrifies Sundance Crowd

Since its kick-off on Thursday, Sundance Film Festival 2016 has been slowly heating with new buzzy, must-see films every day but on Monday, (Jan. 25), the festival got its biggest spark thanks to Nate Parker’s incendiary ‘The Birth of a Nation’.
The title, of course, is an ironic nod to D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent film ‘The Birth of a Nation’ - the controversial epic set during the Civil War that paints the slaves abysmally and dramatizes the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Griffith’s film is one of the bedrock cornerstones of American film history and one the most embarrassing skeletons in its celluloid closet. Parker’s film is an antidote to Griffith’s.
Parker’s movie is an emotionally-charged dramatization of Nat Turner’s famous 1831 slave rebellion, which became one of the early seismic tremors leading up the Civil War. Parker not only wrote and directed the film, also produced it and stars as Turner. It took him seven years to make, Entertainment Weekly reported.
The film traces Turner’s life growing up on a Virginia plantation in the early 1800s, where he was taught to read and sermonize from the Bible. His intelligence and passion is so strong that other, crueler slave masters pay his owner to have Nat preach the gospel to their slaves in order to make them abandon any thoughts of rebellion and accept their lot as God’s will. As Turner travels from plantation to plantation seeing fresh horrors and atrocities at every turn, he is no longer willing to be used in this way. His fire and anger lead him to mount a violent rebellion against the white slave owners in his county.
It takes a while for Turner’s rebellion to come, but when it finally does in the film’s climatic final act, it’s a bloody and gruesome release. Several dozen members of the Sundance audience applauded and cheered during the film’s explosion of violent retribution.
Parker acknowledged as much when he stepped on stage to a standing ovation after his film ended. During a post-film Q&A session, Parker said he made the movie for one reason: to create change agents. Not just in regard to race, but gender, sexuality, any form of injustice. As of right now, The Birth of a Nation doesn’t yet have a distributor.


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