Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Birth of a Nation (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Birth of a Nation

Nate Parker's unapologetic and earthy "The Birth of a Nation " is a visceral account of the Nat Turner Rebellion of 1831 which resulted in the deaths of 55 to 65 white people and 200 black people in retalliation.

The film is bluntly told and unnerving to watch. To its impactful and vital credit (no matter if you are bothered by the director's troubled implications in a rape case or not) the film does not shy away from the unspeakable horror and gore perpetrated by slavery and white hands.

Nat Turner (played by director Nate Parker) is a slave and self taught preacher who grew up hearing that he was sent by God to make prophecy. Slave-owner Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer) leads him around as trophy to speak on the invented virtue of courtesy to slave holders, fictionally backed by biblical verses. Nat sees horror after horror, including the wrenching out of teeth with metal pliers in an attempt to feed men while they are shackled in heavy flesh-biting irons in a dark basement.

Nat craftily learns to use the bible against the slaveholders as a weapon of freedom. A brief respite from the violence occurs with the sight of Cherry (Aja Naomi King). The young woman, no stranger to abhorrent abuse herself is remarkably spirited. The two fall in love. All the while the pair is hunted by the disgusting Raymond Cobb (Jackie Earle Haley).

The film is a Brueghel painting showing the sickening glee of hatred in its most diseased form. Men, woman and children dressed for a Sunday outing, snarl, spit and cheer, calling for black blood and it rightly gives the viewer nausea.

Turner, bound by wood and iron and draped by night, becomes Jesus. He alone  points the way for others to fight the good fight against slavery decades later in the Civil War.

No matter how one feels about the director Nate Parker himself, the provocatively titled "The Birth of a Nation" (named and reclaimed after the unabashedly racist D.W. Griffith film of 1915) deserves to be seen for its fine depiction of Nat Turner, the man.

Write Ian at ianfree1@yahoo.comT

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