The Birth of a Nation - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Birth of a Nation Reviews

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½ November 2, 2018
Very loose narrative. I didn't know where the movie was going until I realized how important him being a preacher was in relation to the film. Other than that the acting led to an emotional and compelling story. (65%)
½ October 27, 2018
Impactful despite its flaws. The Birth of a Nation makes up for its poor narrative with exceptionally fantastic performances. I only wish the film was more enjoyable as it has an important story to tell.
September 23, 2018
There's some powerful imagery at work here that shows the suffering and plight of Black slaves, and whilst a lot of it is undeniably affecting, it often seems like the film is trying too hard to make sure the audience is feeling what it should. It feels very theatrical and a bit over-the-top - sometimes you have to let the story, characters and their actions speak for themselves; trust the audience to understand what's going on and let them feel what they feel without shoving it down their throats. So yes, the rest of the film suffers because of that focus leaving it with a lack of layers and depth (both for the story and the characters) that it needed to feel like a well-rounded film. As a consequence, it doesn't quite manage to do the brave, inspiring man it's based on, as well as those who followed him, justice. Still, for a debut feature-length film, it really is a pretty decent effort with an undeniably stirring ending.
September 16, 2018
#MovieReview 3,0 ?? A história de Nat Turner, escravo que se torna pastor e depois lidera a Rebelião Das 48 Horas. Interessante como contexto histórico, mas nada mais marcante em direção e atuação.
½ August 9, 2018
I have always been taught to hear out both sides, so I gave this a chance. I was hoping that this would be more than a felon trying to justify his claims of calling the government organized crime. Unfortunately, there is no there there with this mindless drivel. Dinesh twists facts until the break and attempts to brainwash the audience. If you enjoyed this, watch "The Brainwashing of my Dad". I gave your side a try, do the same. So disappointing.
August 8, 2018
Nate Parker's directorial debut The Birth of a Nation emerged from the cloud of the "#OscarSoWhite" controversy, placing it in the earliest position of any 2016 film for Oscar contender status as it presented an assailed film industry it's quickest and easiest P.R. rehabilitation scheme. However, the racially-charged subject matter and ensuing controversy over actor/director/co-writer Nate Parker's 1999 rape allegations doomed whatever commercial or Academy Award prospects the film originally seemed to have. For some, it was a matter of pride to attack Nate Parker whose past activities and September apology tour were merely part of "rape culture," a social cause relevant to modern college campuses. For others, it was a matter of pride to defend Parker whose media take-down was merely an attempt to silence a historical film about black rebellion. For others, the fact that Nate Parker's marriage and alleged rape involved a white woman brought into "question" his black credentials.

The unproductive, circular debates on slavery, racism, rape, gender and history made it a much easier for critics and awards organizations (outside of the NAACP Image Awards, Black Reel Awards or African-American Film Critics Association) to write-off the film altogether rather than have to contend with debates, protests and boycotts possibly being waged at their doorstep. By late 2016, the awards season conveniently had other and better-reviewed contenders dealing with racial issues to choose from including Moonlight, Fences, Hidden Figures and Loving. Unfortunately, the controversies have completely overshadowed the film and little has been discussed about the film itself.

The film tells the story of Nat Turner, a slave who led a violent rebellion in Southampton, Virginia in 1831. The film largely diverts from historical accuracy to create a Braveheart meets 12 Years a Slave drama that downplays the complexities and even harsher realities of the real-life events to engage in a less morally ambivalent story. In doing so, the film lacks any original, or even meaningful observation of the situation. Instead, the film uses a traditional storytelling frame in which all the events seem staged for an easily-identifiable affect whether it be planting the seeds of a later event or simply making certain characters unsympathetic rather than giving weight or purpose to their actions, beliefs or ideas. To his credit, Parker does demonstrate an ability toward directing as he produces good-enough performances, and fine aesthetics from cinematography to production design within a historical period drama.

Still, his film lacks heft in the storytelling department. The pacing, while consistent and spacious, fails to give the characters enough depth or room to shine, especially Aja Naomi King who might have had an extremely compelling role in the film but instead fades into the background becoming merely nothing more than a symbol of victimization. Much of the film lingers on dehumanization followed by the slowly unraveling reactions in Nate Parker's performance as Turner, which seems designed to make the final events more perfunctory. Nevertheless, the scenes of gut-wrenching torture of slaves are never matched by events that are triumphant in reaction.

Instead, the film comes off as an exercise in despairing for its own sake. It is never uplifting or inspiring, nor does it provide any solace or satisfactory answer to the dehumanization that had transpired throughout. Instead, it presents a harrowing, and sorrow-filled experience made complete with an unsatisfactory last salvo that arouses no excitement. It ends on a seemingly defeatist and hopeless note, worded in aftermath. By the rolling credits, it becomes apparent that The Birth of a Nation has literally nothing to offer its audience as it's story remains as depressing as it started. Its history is that of convenient Hollywood fantasy. Its frame provides no insight as it sinks under the weight of its own lack of originality. Its revenge quenches no blood-thirst. Its end lacks any hope or productive send-off. It's less apparent, considering its poor overall results, what all this hurrah, controversy and debate was for. Such disruption of social harmony demands a better film with at the very least, something to say worth thinking about afterward.
Super Reviewer
July 11, 2018
Purposely uses the same title as D. W. Griffith's film. Although there is no direct connection between that film's plot and this one there is a metaphorical connection with a reversed pov. This is not such an epic tale as it focuses more closely on the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. There are important themes here about Christianity being a tool to subdue unruly slaves and the spiritual motivator that causes Turner to rebel. Nate Parker wrote, directed, and starred, but then in the pre-#METOO movement former legal trouble with a rape allegation came to light that many believe was not adequately addressed. So again controversy in a director's personal life (which is a regular occurrence) has soured the impact this film story could have had. It is not super innovative, hitting certain plot points that many African slave life dramas contain, but it is solidly structured and seems to be over so quickly.
½ June 3, 2018
Not a perfectly made film by a person with a questionable past. However, the film is powerful enough and an important enough story from US history that its worth seeing. Films like this are tough to watch as they expose such shameful acts in our country's past. Nat Turner is a figure worth learning about.
½ May 20, 2018
A bold historical drama that shows us a tragic part in American history, through the incredible story of Nat Turner. Director/actor Nate Parker brings us an incredible performance, and the film's challenging themes, like racism or faith add even more interest. It's a little bit shocking and may leave you with a sensation of disgust, but overall, it's a powerful movie, and deserves more recognition. Recommended !!
February 23, 2018
Great story of rebellion a bit sugar-coated though. Settings, acting, all good. Extras explaining the real story, very good. It seems very bad in the end but today, more people get killed in an hour of madness in the USA than whites in this this rebellion. Africans did pay quadruple. Terrorism was on both sides. Mostly from the whites.
½ January 24, 2018
Despite not being entirely accurate, 'The Birth of a Nation' still manages to put in historical context the gripping emotion and pain suffered at the hands of African-American slaves in the 1800s, and concludes with a powerful message.
½ January 21, 2018
Ok movie that was supposed to be another 12 years a slave but wasn't but it did have some heart.
January 20, 2018
One of the causes of the American Civil War ?
January 19, 2018
Many posting comment about Parker's personal history and how despite its initial reception was VG, I must give him credit for bringing out a response to the original Birth of a Nation with a historical character from pre-civil war years. It shows the brutality of slavery in the south. Legend says that Turners body was flayed and turned into axle grease to prevent honoring the man. Little wonder no one has had the courage before to try to film this event.
January 15, 2018
a scary story but an important one a losing fight for freedom but a brilliantly told one probably just a bit to long
½ January 2, 2018
3.7/5. 7.4/10.

-JDK
½ November 21, 2017
Of course, the story is important. Still, it has all the subtlety of a soap opera. Take it for what it is.
November 20, 2017
5 stars and more 5 stars. gripping from the beginning. Even as an atheist i was swallowed by this film. The Critic Consensus pretty much nails it.
November 1, 2017
An arresting masterpiece of emotional power in tribute to the triumph of perseverance of the human spirit to prevail over the ongoing atrocity of racial persecution & slavery. A 2 day rebelliion that bought the day of slavery's final reconing so much closer than before it raged against its darkness.
October 22, 2017
Virginia, 1820s/30s. Nat Turner is a slave on a cotton plantation. Through his eyes we see the conditions the slaves have to live under, in particular, the brutality of the slave-owners. Due to having the rare privilege of being able to read, Nat is a Christian preacher. His ability to influence other slaves is used by the slave-owners to their own ends, and ultimately by Nat to fight back.

Based on a true story, and produced by, directed by, written by and starring Nate Parker, this movie had the potential to be a powerful examination of the inhumanity of slavery. However, for the most part, it doesn't go anywhere new and is quite dull in its delivery. The first 70% or so of the movie would be only interesting to those who had never seen a movie or documentary on US slavery before. Pretty stock standard stuff, with one-dimensional characters and predictable plot. Quite clumsy at times too, with unnecessary symbolic imagery that is almost laughable.

The final 30% sees the outcome of this brutality and is fairly interesting, with an ending that is reasonably powerful. However, it is underdeveloped and demonstrates how bad the pacing of the movie is. Instead of spending 70% on overdrawn setup and 30% on hasty conclusion, Parker should have built up the pace and spent more time on the outcome.

On another note, the choice of title is interesting. The 1915 film The Birth of a Nation is one of the most controversial and divisive movies of all time. Directed by cinematic pioneer DW Griffith, on the one hand it is lauded as a seminal moment in movie history, due to its cinematographic innovations. However, it is also one of the most racist movies ever made, ending up as a pro-Ku Klux Klan propaganda campaign.

If one of the aims of the 2016 The Birth of a Nation was to reclaim what the title means and set the record straight, fair enough. Just a pity the finished product doesn't come anywhere close to living up to that billing.

Watch 12 Years a Slave instead.
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