29 Days Of Black History – Day 2: Birth Of A Nation (2016)

Release Date:  10/7/16; In Theaters
Genre:  Drama/Historical/Biography
Rating:  R
Director:  Nate Parker
Studio(s):  BRON Studios, Creative Wealth Media Finance, Follow Through Productions, Hit 55 Ventures, Infinity United Entertainment, Juniper Productions, Mandalay Pictures, Novofam Productions, Oster Media, Phantom Four Films, Point Made Films, Tiny Giant Entertainment, Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Running Time:  120 mins.

Cast:  Nate Parker (Nat Turner), Armie Hammer (Samuel Turner), Mark Boone Junior (Rev. Walthall), Colman Domingo (Hark Turner), Aunjanue Ellis (Nancy Turner), Dwight Henry (Isaac Turner), Aja Naomi King (Cherry Turner), Esther Scott (Bridget Turner), Roger Guenveur Smith (Isaiah), Gabrielle Union (Esther), Penelope Ann Miller (Elizabeth Turner), Jackie Earle Haley (Raymond Cobb), Tony Espinosa (Young Nat Turner), Jayson Warner Smith (Hank Fowler), Jason Stuart (Joseph Randall), Steve Coulter (General Childs).

Story  In 1809, on a farm in Southampton County, Virginia, Nat Turner is a pre-teen slave boy. There is not enough food for all children and Nat’s father Isaac notices that Nat is starving, so one night he slips out to steal some food. On the road, Isaac is caught by a posse led by Raymond Cobb. When Cobb tries to execute him, Isaac turns the tables, kills one member of the posse and flees. He then returns home, tells his family what happened and says that he has to leave immediately, but not without speaking to Nat once more, insisting that Nat is “a child of God” and has a purpose. When Cobb arrives and questions Isaac’s family about his whereabouts, nobody says anything and Benjamin Turner, the owner of the farm, intervenes before Cobb turns violent.

Elizabeth Turner, Benjamin’s wife begins to teach Nat to read, hoping that he can be helpful in the household. The reading lessons center on the Bible and Elizabeth goes so far as to have Nat read scripture during church gatherings.  Shortly before Benjamin dies, he decides that Nat will work as a farmhand. Samuel Turner, Benjamin’s son, becomes the head of the farm.

Now an adult, Nat is still picking cotton, but he also preaches and reads scripture for his fellow slaves on the farm. During a slave auction, Nat is immediately smitten by Cherry, one of the female slaves for sale. He convinces Samuel to buy her as a wedding gift for Catherine Turner, Samuel’s sister.  Nat and Cherry fall in love, marry, and conceive a daughter.

Due to the economic situation in the South, many slave owners have problems feeding their slaves and fear revolts. Reverend Walthall makes Samuel Turner an offer: several farm owners will pay good money if Samuel will travel to their farms with Nat and have Nat preach to the slaves to pacify them and convince them that the Bible requests them to endure their situations. Samuel, who is in financial trouble, reluctantly agrees. During their visits, Nat and Samuel witness emaciated and desperate slaves and, in some locations, horrifying treatment of the slaves by their owners.

Cherry is horribly beaten up and presumably raped by a group of white men, again led by Raymond Cobb. When Nat asks her who did it, she does not tell him because she fears his retaliation will lead to him being killed.

One day, when Samuel is not home, a white man who has been barred from all white churches in the county for unspecified crimes asks Nat to baptize him.  Although Nat knows that doing so could lead to horrible consequences for him, he feels that it is his duty as a preacher and he performs the baptism, supported by Elizabeth Turner.  For his insolence, he is whipped as punishment.

When his grandmother dies, Nat decides that he will rise up against the slaveholders. He holds a secret night meeting with some fellow slaves, among them a boy from another farm, and prepares them for the uprising.  During the night, Nat and a fellow slave enter the house of their owners and kill Samuel and the manager. They then ask the other slaves of the farm to follow them, which most do. During the night, they take over several other farms and kill the slave owners. During one of the takeovers, they notice that the boy has disappeared. A short time later, they are attacked by a group of people who had been alerted by the boy, and they have to retreat.

In the morning, they enter the town of Jerusalem to loot it for weapons. They are confronted by a group of white men, again led by Cobb, but they manage to defeat the group, with Nat personally killing Cobb. When they enter the arsenal, they notice that it is empty. They are immediately ambushed by soldiers who kill every slave except for Nat, who flees.

When Nat manages to secretly meet Cherry once more, she tells him that innocent slaves have been murdered and more will be as long as Nat is on the run. Nat turns himself in and is condemned to death.  Before he is hanged, Nat notices the slave boy who betrayed him in the crowd but Nat does not harbor any ill will towards the boy. The film ends with a fade of the boy’s crying face turning into the face of an adult soldier who presumably is the same boy, grown up and fighting for the Union Army in the American Civil War.  Source:  Wikipedia.

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