I am so glad that actors like Nate Parker exist.
You’ll probably remember him for his roles in movies like “Beyond The Lights” and “The Great Debaters” but in my mind, he’s now the person we have to thank for there being a feature film about the Nat Turner slave revolt.
Parker took a break from acting and used his own money to fund his passion project- writing, directing, producing, and starring in “The Birth of a Nation,” which follows historical badass Nat Turner as he leads slaves in Virginia to rebellion. The period piece just landed the biggest deal in the history of the Sundance film festival, with Fox Searchlight paying $17.5 million to acquire world rights for the film.
What drove Parker to make the film is what inspires many black creatives to create – it’s a desire to see our stories told in the way that they deserve. Because he felt like the roles offered to him as a black man were trash, he used the resources at his disposal to do something about it. And dammit, I love that.
“Growing up as a black man in the South, there was such a shortage of heroism in respect to the history that I was taught,” Parker told the Hollywood Reporter.
It’s a sentiment that I’m sure many black folks can relate to. While we are taught about slavery at school, the topic is kept at a distance. The actual slaves are never fully humanized – in classrooms, we don’t speculate too long on their experiences, how they felt, what it must have been like for them on a day-to-day basis. We learn the facts, the dates and the numbers, but the human side – the pain, the loss, the courage, and the heroism – is only touched on, at best.
Thankfully, Nate is pushing to have the movie shown in high schools and colleges. It’s not just about money or fame or creating art for art’s sake – it’s about making a difference through storytelling.
“I think this film is an opportunity for us to look at this dark past, see not only the implications of the time, but the themes and parallels of where we are right now. And ask ourselves what systems that parallel those systems exist? And what is our responsibility with respect to addressing those systems and the injustices that those systems carry?” Parker said in an interview with The Frame. “So my hope is that this film creates change agents, that people will see it and — if they are moved — that they will know and be encouraged to step into that place of responsibility. That it will create activists of everyone. Because the reality is, there’s racial tension that’s affecting us all. And there’s no one that will deny that. Which means that we all want to heal, that we all want to confront this issue, collectively.”
It’s a good day to be black and brilliant, ya’ll. Keep planning, keep pushing, and your passion will pay off. In the meantime, watch this short interview with Nate Parker and get inspired.