Nat Turner (Nate Parker) is a literate slave and a preacher. He does what seems impossible and orchestrated a revolt that will stand the test of time.
Nat Turner’s story is powerful. I didn’t learn about him in school, I haven’t heard about the heroic, inspiring story until I walked into the theater to see Birth of a Nation. I’d be remised if I didn’t talk about Nate Parker’s saga. In 1999 he was charged and later acquitted of rape at Penn State. In 2012 the victim committed suicide and now here we are. Is it fair to put this suicide on Nate Parker? Is it even fair to pose the question? I am going separate the art from the artist here.
This is the best movie of the year. It takes you through all these emotions. Nate Parker is a superstar in this business. Let’s start with his direction. There hasn’t been a more impactful directorial debut in recent history. I say that with confidence. Every moment of the film is shot beautifully, in such an artistic way that I can’t even describe. The shots of the cotton, the skyline, and landscapes all are stunning. It’s the way Parker holds his shots for either a short time or let’s them linger for a second more that stay with you. He directs a movie that’s brutal and gruesome at times, and a film that depicts a powerful love story, on top of a really emotional life story that is absolutely beautiful.
The acting is spectacular from Parker and the rest of the cast. His portrayal of Nat Turner is the best this year. His character arch is gradual, you feel everything Nat feels. Love, loss, rage, and anger. When the film reaches its climax and the end takes place it’s absolutely gut wrenching. Another great performance in the film comes from Colman Domingo as Hank, one of Nat’s friends and husband to Esther (Gabrielle Union). Esther has something horrible happen to her, which fuels Hank to join Nat’s rebellion. Every moment in this movie leads to something, not one scene is wasted.
The Birth of a Nation moved me deeply. Nate Parker has accomplished such a feat, directing, writing, and staring in a movie that should be nominated for pretty much every major award this season. As an artist Nate Parker has arrived, and his movie is, again, the best film of the year.