Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Birth of a Nation [2016]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  Every Movie Has A Lesson (4 Stars) RogerEbert.com (2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (1 Star)

IMDb listing

Variety - Essay by the surviving sister of a woman who accused the film's makers Parker and Celestin of raping her while unconscious while they were all in college 17 years ago.

BET.com (E. Diaz) article on the controversy

Ebony.com - op-ed piece by the film's costar Aunjanue Ellis

CNS/USCCB (M. Mulderig) review 
RogerEbert.com (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AV Club (A.A. Dowd) review
Every Movie Has A Lesson (D. Shanahan) review


The Birth of a Nation [2016] (directed and screenplay by Nate Parker, story by Nate Parker and Jean McGianni Celestin) is one multi-leveled tragedy: 

The film is about the 1831 Nat Turner Revolt arguably the African American equivalent of the Jewish 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising hence a story that DEFINITELY DESERVES TO BE TOLD and RETOLD.

The film is ALSO a LONG OVERDUE AFRICAN-AMERICAN MADE RESPONSE to the shockingly LIBELOUS / RACIST yet somehow still considered "classic" film The Birth of a Nation [1915] (by D.W. Griffith) that casts the Ku Klux Klan as the defenders of "all that is decent" and "white womanhood" against _crazed lecherous black-men_ who "otherwise" would have "taken over the South" if not for the Klan "righteously" (and VIOLENTLY / BRUTALLY ...) "stepping in." 

Yet, what a tragedy then that Parker and Celestin (accused though ultimately acquitted of raping a drunk / unconscious woman while all three were in college) decided to put it upon themselves to first make THIS FILM to begin with (could not, honestly, any number of other African American film-makers have made it instead?) and THEN _basing_ NAT TURNER'S MOTIVATION for organizing this famous Slave Rebellion ON _THE FICTIONALIZED_ RAPE OF HIS WIFE?   While _certainly_ African American women were _routinely raped_ (NO DOUBT, NONE AT ALL) during the Period of Slavery in this country, there _is_ no _historical record_ suggesting that Nat Turner's wife had indeed been raped in this way.

As a result, one can not but sympathize with the sister of the woman who had accused the film's makers, Parker and Celistin, of raping her, when she wrote recently in a piece on the matter in Variety:

"As her sister, the thing that pains me most of all is that in retelling the story of the Nat Turner slave revolt, they invented a rape scene. The rape of Turner’s wife is used as a reason to justify Turner’s rebellion. This is fiction. I find it creepy and perverse that Parker and Celestin would put a fictional rape at the center of their film, and that Parker would portray himself as a hero avenging that rape.  Given what happened to my sister, and how no one was held accountable for it, I find this invention self-serving and sinister, and I take it as a cruel insult to my sister’s memory.  I think it’s important for people to know Nat Turner’s story. But people should know that Turner did not need rape to justify what he did. Parker and Celestin did not need to add that to Turner’s story to make him more sympathetic... I will wait for a true version of this story to be told — one that respects history and does not re-exploit my sister. When she was 18 years old and incapacitated, Nate Parker and Jean Celestin had power over her. They abused that power, and they continue to wield that power to this day."

Sigh ... 1 Star.


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