The Birth of a Nation (2016)
Set against the antebellum South, THE BIRTH OF A NATION follows Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.
“The Birth of a Nation” is a period film based on the story of Nat Turner, a man who led a slave-driven rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia in 1831. The film features strong acting, particularly from Nate Parker as Nat, Armie Hammer as Samuel Turner, and Aja Naomi King as Cherry, the woman Nat marries. In addition, the music is pitch-perfect and the cinematography is stirring. The movie does a good job in portraying what the various slaves of the day encountered, meaning whippings, racist remarks, and disdain. However, it does too good a job of making it look realistic. We see bloody backs with torn flesh, bloody lips, a slave’s teeth knocked out because he refused to eat, and then food being forced down his throat, a decapitation, hangings and…well, you get the idea. The movie also features harsh language and several profanities, not to mention female nudity from the waist up.
Nat is hired by various plantation owners to preach to their slaves, to remind them to be obedient to their masters, and to keep them peaceful. However, it is Nat’s master, Samuel, who gets paid for Nat’s labors as a minister. Despite the intriguing story of a slave-minister (Nat), and his eventual turn to violence in an attempt to end the violence to his people, this movie definitely is outside the circle of “family-friendly”. In fact, most of the second half of the film is downright depressing, although realistically portrayed. We unfortunately cannot award our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal to the movie.