The Birth of a Nation, Moonlight, and the black protest tradition.
Last week, I took a train to Harlem to see The Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker’s retelling of the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner in Virginia in 1831. Released in October, the film had already disappeared from most theatres, including my local cinema in Brooklyn. At the matinee at the Magic Johnson 9 cinema on Frederick Douglas Boulevard, there were a total of three people, and I was there with a friend.
The Birth of a Nation was supposed to be the film of the year. Fox Searchlight acquired the world rights for the film for $17.5 million dollars, a record-breaking deal for the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered in January. Nate Parker, who produced, wrote, directed and starred in the film, instantly became a media darling, and the Academy nomination for best picture seemed all but assured. After the #OscarsSoWhite boycott of the Academy Awards, here was a FilmSoBlack, made by a black director, in which heroic slave rebels slaughter their white masters. The film seemed to speak to the insurrectionary spirit of contemporary black America while also offering a belated corrective to D. W. Griffith’s eponymous ode to the Confederacy, released almost exactly a century earlier. Read More