Even if Oscar hopes weren't dashed by Parker's rape scandal, Birth would still be a sham, a film whose mediocrity is more painful for being so self-important. Parker's stated influence was Mel Gibson, and he picks up Gibson's problematic traits—messiah complex, fetishistic violence, bludgeoning simplicity—without the craft. As for characterizations and historical atmosphere, you could puncture them with a pencil.
The importance of this tale and its timely telling has been overcome by the director's own history and will not reach the masses it deserves. Mind the filmmaking on display is a little rough and Parker has somewhat turned it into a vanity project as well. The subject would have had more resonance with a more established director (imagine Haile Gerima) but still manages to convey an urgency and sobering resonance.
Writer/director/producer/and lead actor Nate Parker tries to be the judge, jury, lawyer, plaintiff, and defendant in his own courtroom, but can't even seem to make a cogent argument in the meantime. Melodramatic without being particularly compelling and just reminds you how big of a staple and impact the vastly superior 12 Years a Slave was and had.
A digressive narrative dilutes the films sensitivity to its subject matter, rendering instead moments of supposed emotional gravitas. This is where emotional manipulation trumps sensible storytelling. Overall rather well shot and paced besides ventures into pseudo surrealism.
63/100 - Decent. (2.5)
Instead of Braveheart in a southern plantation the cinema of this film was revealed to be a student film version of passion of the Christ. For what was supposed to be a slave rebellion in the revolutionary sense there was very little time spent with the interactions and relationships between the slaves themselves especially compared to the time taken to examine the motivations of the masters between each other.
History rarely explored in Am film or literature (almost absent in film) - Problematic usage of maudlin music - Incisive & direct critique of role religion played in subjugation & pacification of slaves - Recognition & depiction of the historical record of slave revolts/resistance -
Don't buy into the praise, the film's success is a product of timing and the 2016 racial political climate, not craft. Period pieces shot digitally are difficult to do well and this may be the clearest example why. It looks and feels like 2016's version of 1820 and adapts 2016's progressive outlook and applies it retroactively. Re-watch 12 Years a Slave and you'll see the difference between a master and novice.
The grave error here is that the story of Nat Turner's rebellion is a legend that stands alone in American history; yet writer/director Nate Parker focuses an overwhelming majority of this film on the underwhelming generic story elements that audiences have seen time after time in movies of this particular niche. The unique element of Nat Turner--his rebellion--sees hardly any screen time in Parker's rendition.