The non-remake of an unbelievably racist film gets its first trailer.
Whoever thought it was a good idea to release a film called The Birth of a Nation in 2016 should probably have his/her head examined. Director D.W. Griffith released his flawed historical epic back in 1915 and it has long since been deemed as racist. Yes, you read that right. Griffith’s film came out over 100 years ago and now it appears that we will all get to revisit it over the next few months.
The real kicker is that 2016’s Birth of a Nation isn’t even based on Griffith’s version. Basically, in a time of remake after remake, we’re getting a film that shares a name with a notoriously insensitive interpretation of the period during the Civil War but not much else. Without getting too much into the plot, the 1915 version is known for having caucasian actors in blackface, portraying African-Americans as unintelligent, and for glorifying the Ku Klux Klan. With the 2016 version, writer/director/producer/star Nate Parker plays Nat Turner who heads a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831. Essentially, these films are on opposite sides of the spectrum.
Clearly, this is a passion project for Parker who actually swore off acting until he could get this film made. It even took home the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award from the Sundance Film Festival back in January. Through all of the accolades and large amount of praise that has been heaped upon Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, the real question is why the name? It has already been heavily rumored that this film is going to be an Academy Award contender and, judging by the Oscar-bait trailer, it’s not surprising in the least. Why would Parker want to forever tie his film to Griffith’s?
Period dramas, and specifically ones from the Civil War era, will always have their place in cinema. It is the level of humanity and empowerment that they evoke that is what deems them successful or not. Watch 12 Years a Slave if you want to see a recent film about slavery that absolutely triumphs on an emotional level. The Birth of a Nation (2016) definitely seems on the right path for success on a similar level as 12 Years a Slave, but let the past be the past. Parker should want his film to rest on its own laurels and avoid any negative connotations brought onto it with Griffith’s film even if both are similar in name only.
The Birth of a Nation will be a film to watch for when it is released in theaters on October 7th. Luckily it isn’t a remake of D.W. Griffith’s film, yet it’s too bad that it couldn’t be a completely separate entity altogether. Check out the trailer and leave your comments below.