The Birth of a Nation deserved the applause
Parker found the money, divorced himself from corporate control, and nurtured Birth of a Nation into an unflinching historical document. His defiant approach begins with pillaging the title of a racially-charged, silent era classic, and ends with Turner, played by Parker, leading the Southampton Insurrection in all its bloody glory. The indie avenue prohibited the actor-turned-director from stretching Turner’s story to the scope of Spartacus or classically tailoring it like the picturesque 12 Years a Slave -- a $10 million budget only goes so far. Parker compensates with fury.
Actors Jackie Earle Haley and Armie Hammer summon the spectrum of heinous slaveowner behavior, which Parker conveys as a poison that cripples anyone teetering on the edge of understanding. His own acting work bellows; before stirring up his fellow slaves, Turner makes a name for himself as a preacher. While he’ll later turn to pitchforks and daggers to incite real violence, his first weapon of choice is The Bible. Southerns quoting slavery-enabling verses be damned -- Turner, studious and sharp, fires back with counter quotes. Religion plays a central role in The Birth of a Nation, as both a source of spirituality and cesspool of hypocrisy that stains our country’s history. Bold claims for a bold vision.