The Birth of a Nation
Produced by Argent Pictures
Directed by Nate Parker
Screenplay by Nate Parker and Jean Celestine
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Nate Parker has entitled his debut film The Birth of a Nation. He chose his title as a rebuke of D.W. Griffith’s groundbreaking 1915 film.
Griffith’s Birth of a Nation had dramatized what the American South suffered during the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War. In doing so, he presented the original Ku Klux Klan as a force for good protecting whites from newly freed blacks, some of whom were understandably eager to take violent revenge on their former masters. Needless to say, this interpretation of history is anathema today. Parker’s film, on the other hand, honors the slave leader Nat Turner and the bloody uprising he fomented in 1831. It was, he thinks, a precursor to the “necessary” war 30 years later. In Turner’s insurrection, 20 to 30 slaves of Southampton, Virginia, using axes and farm implements, slaughtered their sleeping masters along with their wives, children, and infants—60 lives in all. To make this more palatable to his audience, Parker, without any historical...