This movie was released at an interesting time in our country. Just within the past few months, the United States has had to deal with a series of police brutality incidents, unrest over silent protests, and the raising of social awareness which has rocked our nation to the core.

I find it odd that things that seem simple to comprehend are being made into divisive issues that people take part with. If women have been complaining for decades about unfair treatment in the workplace or not being paid as much, why don’t we listen? If black people have spoken out against police brutality for over 150 years, why don’t we listen? It’s a shame that common sense and simply having the patience to listen are precious commodities these days.

That barely scratches the surface with all of the issues in the limelight of our nation. Then a movie about a slave revolt releases in theaters. What should’ve been celebrated as a film that America needs to see, was seen as a flop its opening weekend.

Everything this film stands for was overshadowed by a past rape charge by director Nate Parker. I’ve read about everything from boycotts by women to people upset by historical inaccuracies in the film. All that withstanding, you should still see this film.

Nat Turner was a slave who at a young age, was privileged enough to live inside the house of his masters (The Turners) and was taught how to read. The only book Elizabeth Turner (Penelope Ann Miller) would introduce to him would be the bible. As the years pass, his knowledge of the bible grew and everyone on the plantation would come to listen to his preaching. Once local farmers get word of unrest in the county, Nat’s owner Sam Turner (Armie Hammer) is convinced he could make money by having Nat preach the gospel to nearby plantations to dispel the thought of an uprising.

Nate Parker as "Nat Turner" and Armie Hammer as "Samuel Turner" in THE BIRTH OF A NATION. Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved
Nate Parker as “Nat Turner” and Armie Hammer as “Samuel Turner” in THE BIRTH OF A NATION. Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Now the thing about Nat’s situation was he really hadn’t seen any true atrocities take place. He had been sheltered to a certain degree. It wasn’t until he started visiting nearby plantations that he saw their awful living conditions, mutilation, unspeakable treatment, and the torture they experienced on a daily basis. Then finally, the day came when he outsmarted a white preacher and he faced punishment for the first time.

After weeks of praying and reading his bible in its entirety, he devised a plan. After secretly meeting with the male leads of each of the plantations he visited, he explained, “For every verse I was reading about being a good slave to your master, I discovered there was two more speaking against slavery and punishment to those masters.” He was alluding to the fact that he, and many others, were taught only the portions of the bible that white people wanted them to learn. All of these meetings and events that take place lead up to a rebellion.

The direction and vision by Parker to impose this 1800s timeframe on top of biblical events was amazing. (Spoiler Alert) When it was time for him to be executed publicly (like Jesus), the person who snitched on him was riddled with guilt (like Judas), and moments away from taking his last breath, Turner looked up to the sky as if to accept his fate (like Jesus). Not to mention, when Nat was punished for talking over a white preacher, he was whipped in the same manner it was written about Jesus.

The line of the movie was so appropriate and so relevant that it should resonate to everyone that what’s happening in today’s society is “history repeating itself.” While in hiding, Nat goes to see his wife Cherry (Aja Naomi King) and she whispers, “They killing everyone for no reason, just for being black.”

I give The Birth of a Nation an 8.5 out of 10. There were more than a few slow moments which I wasn’t expecting after watching the epic trailer, and if your squeamish around blood or torture, you’ll find yourself looking away on several occasions (in one seen a disobedient slave had every single one of his teeth knocked out with a hammer). While it only brought in $7M its opening weekend and was brushed aside by ‘Girl on the Train’ with its $24M numbers, you should still put this on your list of movies to see this month. Politics and outside influences aside, it’s a movie set in the 1800s that reflects today’s race problems biases in a manner that’s so impactful, it should be a requirement to watch in history classes nationwide.


-Jon J.

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