*The Birth of a Nation is a story about Nat Turner, the rebel slave, and it is based on one of the bestselling books of his life (by William Styron). It was also made by a Black director (Nate Parker) who risked his acting career by putting it on hold for quite a bit. His hard work didn’t go to waste, as the film received a lot of praise at movie festivals with plenty of awards.
The book this movie was based on was labeled racist by a lot of Black intellectuals even though it had won a few literary awards.
“By the time Styron’s ink dried,” the director said, Turner was “an impotent and cowardly self-hating Uncle Tom whose ambitions regarding rebellion had little to do with the rampant torture and degradation of his enslaved people, but instead was steeped in his desperate sexual desires for white women.”
The vision of the movie, however, was quite different. It successfully portrayed this rebel slave as a man of faith who was self-determined and had all the courage to sacrifice himself to become a martyr. The movie sort of portrayed him as the Black “Braveheart.”
Even though no one can really know the truth about this rebel slave, his persona is among those that act as reminders of the times of slavery. These are necessary in order to cast a strong image of racism in current times – therefore making his character an unspoken tragedy. This is exactly how the movie was received upon release.
The movie was received at the Sundance festival beautifully and was on one account described as an “instant rapture.” The movie even went on to start the #OscarsSoWhite trend because it couldn’t gain traction from the Academy.
The little that is known about this rebel slave is that he was a preacher and that he had led a bloody revolt for two days. Around 60 white people were killed in this movement and so many more Blacks were killed as retribution.
The confession of Nat Turner is also available for the public to view, and it seems to be fabricated. This is exactly why his character needed to be saved by this movie. This worked so well that Nat Turner is now a reference point for other novelists, rappers and people who ponder over how slavery is still the ghost that haunts the Black community
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you definitely should. You’ll understand that there is no shortage of heroism in the history of the Black community!