This movie brings about a lot of feelings for me. Despite the Nate Parker consent issues, and our understanding of it in America, I went to see this film because it's rare that there's a film about Slavery uprising. Usually, it's about someone who's will can't be broken despite the situation they're in whereas Nat Turner's actions were instrumental in pushing us towards the civil war.
The thing that I didn't like about this movie is that Nat Turner's story was fascinating on it's own. Between visions from God, his birth mother's attempted assassination, and him being the leader of a rebellion, there was plenty to use. Nate Parker took some very big artistic liberties with this film that I felt weren't necessary to tell an amazing story.
Here are the top 6 things about Turner that either weren't discussed, or were changed:
1. NAT TURNER'S MOTHER TRIED TO KILL HIM.
I don't know if it was because she was raped, or because she feared for him, but when Nat was a baby, his mother tried to kill him. He was eventually taken and given to another couple to raise as their own.
2. NAT TURNER WAS SOLD MULTIPLE TIMES.
Nat Turner didn't stay at one plantation as the movie would have you believe. He'd actually been sold at least three times before he decided to go forth with his rebellion. He'd even run away once after being whipped for asking if he could be freed. Something that had been promised to him when he was younger.
3. NAT TURNER AND HIS WIFE CHERRY WERE NOT A HAPPY COUPLE
Nat Turner and Cherry were forced to marry by his second owner Samuel Turner. It's believed that Nat didn't have much care for her and that the children she birthed actually belonged to Samuel Turner.
4. AFTER NAT TURNER'S DEATH, THINGS GOT MUCH WORSE BEFORE THEY GOT BETTER
Nearly 50 slaves were officially charged with conspiring with intent to kill, but over 200 slaves were brutally murdered in the wake of the rebellion. They also passed more stringent laws making it illegal for slaves to learn to read and write all the while killing African Americans for any reason they felt. (sound familiar?) It did spur on anti-slavery groups to get louder though, pushing them further into what would become the civil war.
5. WOMEN WERE NOT SILENT FOR THE REBELLION
The movie treats the women of slavery as demure, often silent bystanders of what's going around them when they were just as active in the rebellion as the men. Nat Turner' own adoptive mother was quite vocal about him being intended for a greater purpose and encouraged his learning and reading of the bible. Also, when can we get past using women's suffering as a call to action? Nat Turner had visions of a better tomorrow for his people. Period. We didn't need a rape to make him feel the need to make a move. I think there was enough ammo when he watched a slave owner knock a slaves teeth out with a hammer and force feed him slop to make sure he was strong enough to work. Women are not feeble creatures, and men should stop associating the word victim with us.
6. A LARGE PORTION OF THE REBELLION ENDED IN JERUSALEM, VA.
Once white people had gotten word that slaves had killed multiple people, they got troops involved and set up shop in Jerusalem. Most of the slaves were captured, but Turner was among those who were able to escape. He was able to evade capture for nearly 2 months before he was discovered by a farmer. He would be taken back to Jerusalem where he would be hanged, dismembered, skinned, and sold off as relics to white people.
As an African American, our history is very important to me, but sometimes Hollywood often gets in the way of telling that story. Also, a promising young man can constantly put his foot in his mouth and cause people to not want to see this movie.
All those things happened this time.
If you can, Birth of a Nation is still playing in the cheap seats, or look for it at Redbox in a few months.
Reviewing movies. I tried to go to once a week, but I think it's best if I post whenever. Right?