Movie Review: The Birth Of A Nation is a powerful, imperfect history lesson

From the moment Nate Parker revealed the title of his fiery directorial debut, The Birth Of A Nation has been treated like more than just a movie. This dramatization of the life and death of Nat Turner, the black preacher who led an 1831 slave insurrection in Virginia, earned its first standing ovation at Sundance in January, before a single frame had even rolled. Was the audience at that packed gala premiere preemptively cheering its very existence, at a time when the reverberations of America’s ugly racial history were making daily headlines and when the movie industry—particularly that annual pageant of self-love, the Oscars—was taking some deserved heat for its lack of diversity? Parker’s hard-won, well-publicized efforts to get the project off the ground seemed to bestow instant essentiality upon it, shielding it from criticism. Then some awful allegations from his past resurfaced, turning a difficult …

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