By Allegra Solomon, Contributor
In order to understand the significance of Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, you need to know the historical context of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film of the same title. The silent film, based on the novel and play, The Clansman, is infamous for its use of blackface and its inhumane depiction of black people. The film is also responsible for the spike in KKK membership after its release. It is, in short, everything this The Birth of a Nation is not.
The reconstruction and re-release of this film of the same title is an attempt to rewrite history. Director Nate Parker, backed by a brilliant cast, gives a moving and refreshing retelling of Nat Turner’s rebellion. Though slow at times, the film is complete with beautiful cinematography and a narrative that anyone can empathize with. Turner’s story is told in vivid and mostly gruesome detail. And unlike in most horror movies, during those eye-covering moments, whispering “it isn’t real” to yourself does very little to ease you. The “based on a true story” at the start of the film makes sure of that.
It’s a story of resilience and serves as a reminder that even the strongest people can be pushed to their breaking point. “Slavery” is often reduced to just a three syllable word. Watching this makes the viewer realize the stories and lives of all the people that suffered at that time cannot be fully grasped in one single word. In the film, it is revealed that the men of that time wanted to make sure Nat Turner had no legacy. This is Nate Parker’s way of making their worst nightmare came true. What was his legacy? That’s for you to watch and find out. Once again, we are reminded there is always more than one side to history.