The Birth of a Nation teaser trailer has arrived and it is leaving people speechless, reports the New York Times. The Nate Parker powerhouse won big at the Sundance film festival, taking home “both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, and selling to Fox Searchlight for a record $17.5 million.” That is a lot of promise to live up to. By the look of the trailer, The Birth of a Nation has done just that.
Judging from the public’s reaction to this first glimpse of The Birth of a Nation, audiences won’t be disappointed. “With a sweeping aerial shot of a cotton field and the sounds of Nina Simone singing “Strange Fruit,” the teaser takes your breath away from the start.
The Birth of a Nation is the directorial debut of Parker, who also wrote the script. In addition, Parker takes on the leading role of Nat Turner, the movie tells the true story of Turner’s 19th century slave revolt in Virginia. Turner was an enslaved person who was a traveling preacher to his fellow slaves. Turner organized a rebellion in Southampton County in 1831.
The title of the movie has caused some raised eyebrows. As movie buffs might know, The Birth of a Nation was the name of a silent movie released in 1915. The D. W. Griffiths movie was bitterly racist, and horrific in its grotesque portrayal of African Americans. The movie’s title became a byword for racism, prejudice, and an incredibly bigoted view the Reconstruction south.
The plots of the movies are in no way connected, and hopefully Parker’s The Birth of a Nation will erase the inaccuracies of the earlier movie and the title will become a symbol of hope and bravery.
According to the Guardian, the critics’ reaction to the movie has been “decidedly mixed.” However, “the powerful subject matter and timeliness in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the Black Lives Matter movement, is sure to push the film the front of the [awards season] pack when the race heats up.”
The teaser “is searingly powerful, detailing what led Turner to revolt against his slavemasters and lead a revolution.” Much like 12 Years A Slave before it, The Birth of a Nation holds a mirror up to the America of today and dares us to look into it. As Vanity Fair notes, the trailer’s talking point is the depiction of everyday happenings in the age of slavery, the normality of which is striking.
“This trailer hints at the beginnings of that rebellion but lingers on indelible images of slavery, like a white girl leading a black girl on a leash…”
The Birth of a Nation is already so much more than a historical biopic. It is “part of an entirely different modern conversation outside of Hollywood… this trailer alone indicates the film’s power and ability to face that terrible history—and its modern consequences—head on. For now, that’s much more important than any Oscar buzz it might accumulate in the meantime.”
The outstanding cast of The Birth of a Nation shine in the trailer even though we just get a glimpse of their performances. The movie received a “raucous standing ovation” at Sundance, reports People, and we should probably expect the stars of The Birth of a Nation to headline at awards night. Starring alongside Nate Parker are Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley, Aja Naomi King and Mark Boone Jr.
For Parker, The Birth of a Nation is definitely a labor of love. Despite its record-breaking purchase by Fox Searchlight, Parker initially struggled to raise the $10 million needed to make the movie.
The depiction of slavery in all its brutal ugliness, and portrayal of historical figures, almost guarantees that The Birth of a Nation will be an instant classic. Many would go so far as to say it should be mandatory viewing. Parker told People of his lifelong admiration of Turner.
“In college, if someone [asked] me who my hero [was], the answer they’d get without hesitation was Nat Turner… to research him and learn about him and try to find ways into his life that I could apply to my life, with respect to his disposition toward injustice, with respect to his ideology around righteousness and faith.”
The Birth of a Nation is scheduled for release on October 7, just in time to catch the awards season audience. What do you think of the trailer? Will you be running to see the movie? Sound off in the comments below.
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