I have no problem believing that Nate Parker poured his heart and soul into this project. I have no problem believing that he wanted to make an important film with a visceral emotional impact. What I do have a little trouble believing, though, is that he was allowed to make such a high profile film using such amateurish filmmaking techniques. The narrative is flimsy, the editing is something out of a “How Not to Edit” handbook, and the extremely obvious symbolism is constantly screaming to get your attention. I know it’s not the reaction you want from the audience, Nate, but your film is exactly what makes eye-rolling ability useful.
Nevertheless, amid all the cringeworthy directorial decisions lies an interesting exploration of faith, particularly the ways in which it can be manipulated and the conflict that arises between harsh reality and faith-based existence. At its core, this is the most fascinating aspect of the movie, and Parker does a solid job in that regard of conveying his character’s inner turmoil, escalating rage, and eventual acceptance. When the film gives way to its climax, it manages to draw out some poignant imagery from the surrounding bloodshed, but you can’t help but feel like the actual story earned a better film than we get here.
Photo credit: The Birth of a Nation, Fox Searchlight Pictures