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Sunday, January 24, 2016

ON NATE PARKER'S BIRTH OF A NATION

Yeah. It's another slave movie. But the story of Nat Turner, the story of a slave revolt is a different sort of slave movie. Very different. This is not going to be anything like "12 Years A Slave." It was no small achievement to show that 12 Years A Slave showed 3 or 4 different types of white people treating black people like animals. "The good white slave master's" reputation was shown as the horror it really was and white women's full participation in slavery was shown as well. More than that "12 Years A Slave," just like Octavia Butler's book "Kindred," showed us just how helpless a black person of superior intelligence could be made by the system of slavery. Yet, same as always, the black people in 12 Years A Slave were helpless victims that manage to carry on courageously through slavery no matter how they badly they are beaten.
The Story of Nat Turner is not that story. But a white man named William Styron wrote a book called "Confessions of Nat Turner" tried to turn Nat Turner's rebellion into the same old story. As with "Uncle Tom's Cabin," the characterization of black people was so comfortable and familiar to white folks that Styron won a prize for that book, the Pulitzer Prize in Styron's case.

In Styron's "Confessions Of Nat Turner," Instead of envisioning these real black people as planning then taking part in a slave revolt daring and courageous like....mmm... I dunno..... like the white actors in "Black Hawk Down," "Sniper," .or any one of the last two or three movies about Iraq or Afghanistan or Benghazi where the white guys live, fight, and die for one another heroically.

Instead of the black men in Styron's book being shown as intelligent and courageous, AS THEY MUST HAVE BEEN to achieve what they achieved, they were portrayed as child like in their thinking, stumbling through then lucky or unlucky at spots, and ultimately pathetic. Nat Turner and those that followed him stumbled through their "rebellion" in that book. And I can't quite remember, but I don't remember the white people as being portrayed as getting what they deserved at any given point.
No. I am not tired of slave movies There are so many stories of slavery that have NOT been told. And, in my opinion, Harriett Tubman's story should have been told on a big screen with a big budget. Her story is much larger and more primary. And it's way past time to see black women do more than survive rape during slavery.

Still, I'm looking forward to Nat Turner's rebellion told from the standpoint of those not trying to defend themselves and their ancestors. And if this movie is done correctly-- and it should be if Nate Parker wrote the screenplay, produced and directed it-- you're going to see a black historical hero story. And I need more of those. 


One of the best things about this movie though? It's a little thing that's not a little thing. This movie has the same title as a racist movie put on in 1915 that's famous. I'm not sure if they still teach people about this movie in grade school, but they should. The 1915 version of "Birth Of A Nation" spread and solidified black stereotypes and empowered the Ku Klux Klan. In the Post-Reconstruction period, that movie was one of the deadliest things to happen to black people as a whole. It brought white people together mentally, as I understand it. It was instrumental is shoring up support for codifying Jim Crow.
Cast Of The Birth Of A Nation
Sundance Premiere January 25 2016
But now there's a 2016 "Birth Of A Nation" movie. Now, when people look up the movie "The Birth Of A Nation" online they're going to find Nat Turner's heroics instead of the KKK's. So this movie, if it does well, will help erase and/or de-legitimatize two ugly depictions of black people. It'll get rid of Styron's book as the Nat Turner image maker. Nate Parker's "Birth Of A Nation" is nearly the direct opposite of the 1915 racist version of a movie with the same name. I think this is one of the slave movie worth seeing. And for long as they are popular, let me say it again. Somebody please make a Harriett Tubman movie and I wanted see Octavia Butler's "Kindred" too -- A sci-fi slave movie. Why not get them both done while the iron is still hot? Read More on Nate Parker's struggle to get this movie made.  
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/birth-a-nation-slave-revolt-857177