The Birth of a Nation, 2016

 

The first feature film ever produced about the Southampton slave revolt debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2016. Nate Parker wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the film. The rights to distribute the film worldwide were sold to Fox Searchlight Pictures for $17.5 million, a record amount for the Sundance Festival.

 

The title of the film is the same as the silent movie blockbuster that helped to establish popular white conceptions of race for decades after its release in 1915. In the movie, filmmaker D. W. Griffith chronicled the history of the Civil War and its aftermath through a racist lens. The original Birth of a Nation was shown in the White House by Woodrow Wilson, who after seeing the movie remarked, "It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true." It was used as a recruitment tool by the Ku Klux Klan, which was glorified in the film. One commentator estimated that a staggering 50 million people had seen The Birth of a Nation by 1930.

 

Nate Parker said in an interview in January 2016, "I've reclaimed this title and re-purposed it as a tool to challenge racism and white supremacy in America, to inspire a riotous disposition toward any and all injustice in this country (and abroad) and to promote the kind of honest confrontation that will galvanize our society toward healing and sustained systemic change." (Filmmaker, January 25, 2016)

 

Reviews

The Guardian by Lanre Bakare

The Hollywood Reporter by Todd McCarthy

RogerEbert.com by Brian Tallerico

Vanity Fair by Richard Lawson

Variety by Justin Chang

 

Watch the Trailer