The (Re)Birth of a Nation

I’m not sure if anyone has posted about a certain film that premiered during this semester and carries massive cultural implications in our current, racially charged climate. Since we’ve somehow not mentioned it in class, I’ll post here.

The Birth of a Nation is considered the movie that invented modern cinema.  The filming techniques it pioneered revolutionized the way films were produced.  Its huge release and marketing made it the first blockbuster film.  The Birth of a Nation is also famous for being horrifically racist, a fact that film experts have to dodge around when discussing the film, much to the delight of those who support racism.  For those who don’t know, the plot centers around two families who fought on opposite sides of the civil war uniting to end reconstruction in their corner of the south, by killing black people and preventing them from voting on election day.  The film features horrific racist caricatures, and portrays the violence perpetrated on freed slaves in the south, including lynching, as heroic actions.

This movie I want to showcase is The Birth of a Nation 2016.  Written, produced, directed, and starring Nat Parker as Nat Turner, the black priest who led the most violent slave revolt in the US, preaching a vision of ending slavery.  The birth of the nation was made with the goal of re-appropriation.  That is, taking a piece of pop-culture and stealing it back from the signification of racism.  The idea is to replace the image of the classic Birth of a Nation and the white supremacy it stands for with that of Nat Turner leading an uprising with the fury of a people locked in chains for two-hundred years by the old order.  Doing so will re-appropriate the cultural meaning of the image, and by doing so, alter American culture to a more tolerant standard.

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