Nate Parker’s retelling of Nat Turner’s rebellion does not succeed as art or as propaganda. - From The New Yorker
Nat Turner, the last to feel the rope, was hanged on November 11th.
At the end of “The Birth of a Nation,” as Turner is hanged and the crowd howls its approval, the camera draws close to the face, and then the quivering, liquid eyes, of a black boy who heard one of Turner’s sermons, and later betrayed him.
Given the chronic exclusion of blacks in entertainment, it’s easy to understand the prevailing critical view that a work of art by a black artist about the bleakest episode in our history must, on these grounds alone, be worthy of our attention.
Parker, sensing that the success of his movie depended on his performance in the media, cast about awkwardly, citing his wife and daughters as signs of his maturation, and referring to what happened with the now deceased woman he knew in college as “one of the most painful moments in my life.” In August, he told Ebony that he was never taught the meaning of consent in sex.
The early euphoria surrounding the movie was prompted by the way it seemed to answer the demands of its time, sublimating the eye-for-an-eye Old Testament ethos of such fiery agitators as Stokely Carmichael and Elijah Muhammad into the safer precincts of the screen.