The Birth of a Nation’s success story matters
Three days before Birth of a Nation’s premiere, the Academy Awards announced an initiative to diversify its voting body. Spurred by the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, a hashtag activist retaliation over this year’s whitewashed nominees, Academy President Cheryl Boons Isaacs declared that the organization was "going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up" by reassessing membership status. A recent statistic showed that only 2.6 percent of Oscar voters are black. The Academy promises to double that number by 2020.
Movie industry institutions forced Parker to make his movie outside the system. Now he’s commanding them. There’s an awakening to the importance, and, let’s be real, financial gains, of diversity. Audiences want to hear Nat Turner’s epic story. They want to see a powerhouse black lead in the same kind of physically-demanding, heartstring-tugging roles reserved for Benedict Cumberbatch and Leonardo DiCaprio. The Birth of a Nation is a good movie with a great conversation bubbling inside of it. Everyone needs to see it. And they will, thanks to Parker and a widespread cry for change.
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Matt Patches is Thrillist’s Entertainment Editor. He previously wrote for Grantland, Esquire.com, Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Guardian. Find him on Twitter @misterpatches.