Director D.W. Griffith brought the original silent film The Birth of the Nation to silent movie theaters back in 1915, when the motion picture industry was young. The film's influence can be seen today, but the film portrays the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic army. Now, over a century later, director Nate Parker gives audiences another film of the same name, but this one is about Nat Turner's rebellion. Both films look to be equally controversial, but for different reasons. This is what is known about Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation Release Date and its True-to-Life story of a slave rebellion.
According to the Daily Herald, it took Nate Parker seven years to bring The Birth of a Nation to the screen, which was accomplished on a $10 million dollar budget. This is Parker's first feature, and he is the co-writer, producer, director, and plays the starring role of Nat Turner.
For those who don't know their history, Nat Turner was an African American man who led a rebellion of both slaves and freed blacks in Virginia on August 21, 1831, killing about 55 to 65 whites. Birth of a Nation shows this rebellion, and everything leading up to it with Nat Turner.
In the film, Nat is a slave boy who grows up under the tutelage of white matron Elizabeth Turner (Penelope Ann Miller) who teaches Nat to read as well as about the gospel. Elizabeth's son Samuel (Armie Hammer) and Nat have a good relationship, and Nat is soon married to a slave named Cherry (Aja Naomi King).
The film Birth of a Nation and real-life events might actually conflict with each other, as it is believed the Cherry Turner was subject to rape, but this has not been verified (nor other information about Nat Turner's wife). Birth of a Nation does show white men gang-raping Cherry and nearly beating her to death, and this is probably the point in the film where Nat begins to start planning his rebellion.
Nat Turner's Biography states that Turner worked on a number of plantations, but he fled from Samuel Turner's brother in 1821. Nat then returned to Turner's plantation after receiving a sign from God, and claimed to have heard divine voices and seen visions.
Turner describes in a confession after the rebellion that "the Spirit instantly appeared to me and said the Serpent was loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent".
In February 1831, Turner saw the solar eclipse as a sign to begin his rebellion and recruited several slaves to help him with his cause. Turner began his rebellions months later, in August, and had intended to reach the county seat of Jerusalem and take over the armory there, but a group of armed white men stopped him.
Turner fled into the woods and there were many white mobs who took revenge on the blacks, killing 100 to 200 African Americans. Turner was captured on October 30, 1831 and pled guilty, believing that his rebellion was the work of God. Turner was sentenced to death by hanging on November 11 of the year, and many of his co-conspirators were also hung. This year marks the 185th anniversary of the rebellion, and the event certainly resonated through the South of that time.
Director Nate Parker has attempted to give Nat Turner's story a spotlight in The Birth of a Nation. It is difficult where to rate Nat Turner as far as being a freedom fighter or just another oppressor himself, but audiences can see for themselves as The Birth of a Nation hits theaters this Friday, October 7, 2016.