Well, for those of you still pondering whether or not to go see Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation, if you go by its weekend box office debut, it might motivate you to not go.
For months, this movie was all over the news. It’s director/producer and star, Nate Parker was in high rotation promoting the movie. He did a lot of ground work to get the movie made. But right around the time the movie received a standing ovation at the Sun Dance Movie Festival; and was sold to Fox Searchlight for 17 million. There was high hopes. Many were sure this mostly Black movie cast was headed for Oscars. And then…the white chick happened. A dead white chick at that. Apparently, 17 years ago, Nate Parker and a friend were accused of raping a young 19 year old white co-ed while she was passed out at Penn State. There was a trial, Nate was acquitted. The jury felt that his sexual involvement with the young woman was consensual but his friend’s involvement was not. Nate got on with his life. The accuser committed suicide 12 years later.
Nate Parker has been in over 15 movies after this incident. This issue was never challenged before but when he decided to make a movie–on his own about Nat Turner, one of the greatest leaders to ever lead a slave rebellion in 1831 in Southhampton Country, Virginia; all of this surfaced. Why now? It’s not typical for a filmmaker’s past to influence success of their movie but this incident has been the focal point of every press interview he’s been in from the Toronto Film Festival, Good Morning America and 60 Minutes.
Many believe that the negativity of the rape case is what has hurt it from crossing over into broader audiences. 60% of the ticket buyers were African American.
The exit polls for the movie have been good, so what killed it?
Yes, Nate Parker has a white wife. And some Black people have spoken about and pondered how a man not married to a Black woman could portray such a strong Black figure. But many women began protesting the movie. Including Black women at that. They stated the rape charge as the reason why they couldn’t support the movie. Yet, is this really about rape or something else? I just can’t understand how Black women can protest Nate Parker but not see how white racists used them–AGAIN to destroy a Black man.
The second reason that may be for the backlash is that there are white men killed in this movie.
We are in a war. There is an agenda to portray Black men in a certain kind of way. This film is about an uprising at a very critical time in our history. Some among us have an issue with Black men being seen in a masculine way. With recent violence taking the lives of so many, this film could have been a justification to properly cement the anger toward the establishment’s insistence on reigniting White Supremacy.
I still might go see the movie. It’s an important part of our history.
Nate Parker used his own money to make this movie. Supporting him is a matter of choice but standing up for what this movie stands for, is a matter of principal.
This is artistry at its best.
Will Black people save it?
That would make the biggest statement of all.