Co-written, co-produced, directed by, and starring actor-turned-filmmaker Nate Parker, the dramatized chronicle of the Nat Turner slave rebellion of 1831 is one of the most ferocious — and righteous — of all cinematic “history lessons.” Parker portrays Virginia plantation slave and preacher Nat Turner with stoic strength, but it’s the film’s upending of D.W. Griffith’s Ku-Klux-Klan-glorifying racist “masterpiece” of the same name (1914) that really blisters the screen. Turner was the American Spartacus, and Parker’s Birth explains why in no uncertain terms. It’s a period melodrama from a shameful period, a cast-iron cauldron of hatred, mayhem, resistance, and retribution, with vivid performances by Aja Naomi King, Armie Hammer, Colman Domingo, Roger Guenveur Smith, and Aunjanue Ellis, among a large supporting cast. Co-written by Jean McGianni Celestin (120 min.).
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