Transatlantica Revue d’études américaines, American Studies Journal Cet article est consacré aux mémoires de l’esclavage dans The Birth of a Nation de Nate Parker" /> Transatlantica Revue d’études américaines, American Studies Journal Cet article est consacré aux mémoires de l’esclavage dans The Birth of a Nation de Nate Parker" />

Film sur l esclavage des noirs en amerique

Turner: thé making de a heroThe enslaved as revendeur agréé of subversion et resistanceRevising auto Hollywood slave narrativeConclusion"/>

revue d’études américaines. American Studies journal

Cet article est consacré du mémoires de l’esclavage dans The Birth of a Nation du Nate Parker. À travers une étude narrative lequel examine la manière dont le réalisateur utilise ns genre de film biographique (ou biopic) pour faire ns l’esclave rebelle ns héros, cet article analyse l’impact des images sur la incarcération d’une figure historique controversée. Das films du plantation et autre représentations quinématographique des le noir ont laissé d’un empreinte visuelle parmi eux le administrateurs conteste la légitimité en développant ns esthétique ns l’esclavage qui prend ns contrepied des représenter existantes.

Vous lisez ce: Film sur l esclavage des noirs en amerique

This essay examines thé memories ns slavery shaped par Nate Parker in The Birth ns a Nation. Ce shows comment Parker uses the biopic oui a narrative frame à turn thé slave rebel right into a hero et analyzes the collision of the visuals end the confinements of a in the history controversial figure. Parker, the essay argues, has actually devised an aesthetic du slavery that aims à counter the visual héritage of the plantation genre et other currently representations of blackness.

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Mots-clés :

The Birth de a Nation, Nate Parker, Nat Turner, esclavage, des questions raciales, révolte


The Birth du a Nation, Nate Parker, Nat Turner, slavery, race, rebellion
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Turner: thé making du a hero
The enslaved as revendeur agréé of subversion and resistance
Revising auto Hollywood slave narrative
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1The historiography de slavery longue focused nous the transatlantic servant trade et the agence of enslavement as an economic system that developed a dehumanizing view ns the enslaved people.1 Nineteenth-century proslavery chroniclers such oui James Schouler described thé enslaved Africans as “a black servile race, sensuous, stupid, brutish, obedient to auto whip, youngsters in imagination” (Schouler 239), offering ground à racist stereotypes that have plagued American literary et visual culture—the Uncle Tom, the Sambo, the coon, thé mammy, et the pickaninny among others (Guerrero 15-17). In American Negro slave Revolts (1943), Herbert Aptheker listed a corrective to this perception par bringing venir light “records of approximately deux hundred and fifty revolts et conspiracies in auto history du American black slavery.” Aptheker sharp out thé causal branchement between acts of rebellion and the “degradation, exploitation, oppression, and brutality” du slavery, thus emphasizing auto political awareness du the enslaved et their capacity venir resist (Aptheker 162, 139). In Slavery: A difficulty in American Institutional et Intellectual Life (1959), Stanley Elkins stressed thé devastating effects de forced servitude (which cette compared venir a totalitarian institution) nous the le noir personality. Elkins’s thesis of black victimization to be at odds with thé ideological shifts de the 1960s et 1970s, i beg your pardon foregrounded auto creative resistance of blacks in thé context du the black Power movement. Herbert Gutman’s The black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925 (1976) revealed thé persistence ns a details African American cultural heritage regardless of uprootedness, whereas Richard Price’s Maroon Societies: Rebel Slave areas in thé Americas (1973) et Eugene D. Genovese’s From Rebellion venir Revolution: Afro-American servant Revolts in the Making ns the modern World (1979) “laid venir rest thé myth de slave docility et quiescence” (Genovese xxiii) et documented exemple of marronage—“the living proof of the existence of a slave consciousness the refused à be limited par the whites’ conception or manipur of ” (Price 2). An ext recently, Robert L. Paquette has remarked the “slaves resisted wherever enslavement existed. Castle resisted as individuals and in groups. They withstood passively et violently. They arranged acts of collective resistance the were essentially their own” (Paquette 272).

2 see Claire Dutriaux’s essay in auto same sortir of Transatlantica.

2These historiographical breakthroughs in thé study de slavery seem to have had little conséquences sur on filmmaking. From The Birth ns a Nation (D.W. Griffith, 1915) à Jezebel (William Wyler, 1938) et Gone with auto Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939), Hollywood cinéma has contributed to thé circulation du racial stereotypes: racist characterization has thrived in the Hollywood plantation type in details (Bogle). In auto 1960s and 1970s the civil rights déménageur ushered in a new range of representations, including thé rebellious Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton/John Amos) in thé TV miniseries Roots (1977) and the boxer Mede (Ken Norton) in auto blaxploitation cinématicien Mandingo (Richard Fleischer, 1975). Auto depiction of the idealized virility ns the Mandingo slave resonates with thé racist portrayal of couleur noire sexuality ont animalistic desire in Griffith’s film. Tavia Nyong’o nonetheless says that Mandingo represents “an astonishing effort to capture and destroy, within the cinematic apparatus, auto homoerotic, hypersexualized la peinture of the rebellious couleur noire slave” (Nyong’o 175). Sankofa (Haile Gerima, 1993) is thé only cinématicien that daringly broaches slave revolt oui insurrection through characters who continually talk around escape, through Shango (Mutabaruka) voicing the doctrine du the Haitian Revolution and its discourse de universal liberty.2 while Amistad (Stephen Spielberg, 1997) may stand out oui “an attempt à revise the code surrounding the conceptions of couleur noire armed revolt” in Hollywood cinéma (Stokes, 2013 47), some critics des questions the ideology system slant ns a cinématicien that fails venir challenge auto “mainstream American d’image of the le noir male body ont violent” (Osagie 127).

3Representing slavery nous screen is an arduous job considering thé discriminatory power du race-laden images: ce entails the risk of reactivating auto visually racialism discourse that insidiously pervades American cinema. Darieck scott observes that a “surfeit ns signification attends thé image of black bodies in the visual field” (Scott 337). Introduce to frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, white Masks, cette argues:

is enmeshed within thé various overdeterminations which create it as replete v readable meanings—it is constantly bearing a story, année explanation, always flaunting the valence oui different/difference, evoking thé familiar but largely inescapable assumptions de hypersexuality, hyperphysicality, monstrosity, et criminality the shape visuel representations de blackness in un film western culture. (Scott 341)

In The Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker self-consciously engages with the visual héritage of slavery and revisionist literatures around slavery. The Birth ns a Nation is a cinématique conceived in reference venir Griffith’s own movie de the exact same title, aiming both à revise its historical discourse and to counter a racialism imagery the has endured through auto dissemination of stereotypes throughout various genres.

4Following auto trend ns slave narrative film that has recently flourished, et which the box office success de 12 year a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013) epitomized, Parker offers a self-reflexive approach à a text—the 1831 Confessions de Nat Turner—that has sparked many controversies. Thé filmmaker attempts to retrieve auto voice du the enslaved homme from the words couched in thé pamphlet published par Thomas R. Gray, a blanche lawyer who videotaped Nat Turner’s confession avant he was hanged parce que le leading a servant insurrection the caused in between 55 to 60 deaths among the white population of Southampton County, Virginia, and even an ext among auto enslaved who were killed in retaliation. Forty couleur noire men joined thé rebellion, which started with thé murder of Turner’s very own master et his family on August 21, 1831. Genovese extols auto “extraordinary heroism” de slaves who “took auto insurrectionary road,” which he understands as “part du the most de base wing of the struggle à la <…> democracy” (Genovese 1-2). Turner’s battle was first et foremost inspired par religious beliefs and ideas du the revolution; marqué it pouvez also oui been motivated passant par the maroons’ stories which auto filmmaker includes as part of Turner’s childhood environment.

5Nat tourneur is celebrated ont a hero whom plenty of textbooks appel “deeply religious” or “a gifted preacher” (Loewen 181)—although historians have also warned against planche à découper Gray’s intrusive participation in a narrative that can not be take away at affronter value. Afri American literature scholar mar Kemp Davis phone call into des questions the accuracy ns Gray’s transcription when she declares “I nothing believe for a moment that Nat tourneur spoke that way” in Charles Burnett’s documentaire Nat Turner: A difficult Property (2003). Burnett examines the resonance de Turner’s name in collective memory de interviewing writer william Styron, whose very own fictional account du the servant rebellion (The Confessions of Nat Turner, 1967) precipitated a wave of critiques in 1967-1968. Thé novelist to be blamed pour falsifying history de expanding conditions météorologiques the sexual fantasies tourneur allegedly nurtured about Margaret Whitehead, a white woman that was eliminated during the revolt. Harlem writer william Strickland regarded Styron’s Confessions as “a racist livre designed à titillate auto fantasies ns white America,” while Stokely Carmichael and Rap brun refused to engage abordage on je vous demande pardon they called “the distorted contents of Styron’s book.” “Lies, deception, and distortion,” lock added, “is the seulement un thing nous can intend from hunkies” (quoted in français 252, 256). Styron responds to these allégations in Burnett’s film par suggesting that turner “fits into the role each créateur wants à make him fit into” due to the fact that so little is known around him. Tourneur is a floating si pauvre whose character deserve to be fleshed out with various traits and qualities. Cartoonist Kyle Baker, à la example, explored the subtext ns the Confessions in his graphique novel Nat Turner (2008) et imagined the histoire which tourneur supposedly recalled as a child—an unspecified event that had happened avant his birth et caused him to be seen ont a prophet.3 Baker situates auto mysterious occasion during the Middle Passage, where an African mother throws her baby overboard venir save ce from a life of misery. Attaché in Virginia, turner never experienced thé horrors du the center Passage; marqué the illustration is constructed ont an loi of empowerment connecting Turner’s rebellion venir repressed routine memories. Auto embedded histoire evokes a diasporic culture which has actually slipped into oblivion.

6Parker exploits similar gaps in Gray’s récit to re-appropriate memories of black experience. The Birth ns a Nation traces Turner’s life trajectory indigenous childhood to death, pour it until it is full in auto gaps in auto character’s first story v fiction. Using thé biopic format to elevate Turner à heroic status, Parker create narrative and mise-en-scène impacts that allow him venir describe the slave rebel oui the driving renforcer behind historical events that have all too regularly objectified auto enslaved. Parker look at at Sankofa for aural inspiration and at 12 year a Slave pour visuals that mixte the shocking contrast between picturesque sceneries et staged violence, and emphasize thé sadistic la nature of the white stare (Wilderson). The film’s carefully constructed visuals montrer that cette fits an ideological task that does no strive parce que le historical accuracy; ce is a revisionist slavery cinématique that produces a new image of auto enslaved people by highlighting rêves of freedom that notice some venir rebellion. The Birth de a Nation spotlights thé exceptional character de Nat Turner, played by Parker himself and portrayed oui a messianic prophet et revolutionary leader. Ont director, Parker attempts to circumvent preexisting imagery of slavery à avoid turning the le noir body into année object du abjection that could elicit horror and disgust (Chapman 182; Kristeva 4).

Turner: auto making ns a hero

7The Birth de a Nation is devoted to the création of a display screen hero, whom the récit visually personne célibataire out amid assorted crowds. Whether oui a son or an adult, Nat Turner stands out in the middle foreground du the screen running toward the caméra with a decision that animates every nerve du his body. The similitude between two screen shots, portraying him first oui a child et then as an adult, enhances the exceptional character of année individual who rebellious streak is an ingrained personality trait. In Toward thé Visualization of History: auto Past oui Image, mark Moss discusses the impacter of visual culture on auto study de history in the following terms: “Since auto advent of film, one of the most typical ways du dealing with historic subject issue on film has been à resuscitate the Great Man/Person édition of history” (Moss 126). Nate Parker’s biographical cinématique intersects v slave histoire in order venir put a new spin on le noir history: the narrative portrays turner as année exceptionally talented child who is taught venir read par his white owner’s wife elisabeth (Penelope Ann Miller). The scénario deviates native Turner’s Confessions, which couvert no together experience, suggesting that Parker base the figure of Turner nous a variety du sources that include other slave narratives. Sophia Auld’s reading lessons in Narrative ns the first of fredigick Douglass (1845) immediately come à mind.

8Genovese explains Turner ont a masculin who “projected année interpretation ns Christianity that stressed auto God-given right à freedom oui the fundamental doctrine of devoir underlying a political vue that chin reflected the nouveau ideologies of the âge of Revolution” (Genovese 45-46). Parker characterizes his hero as a preacher who eloquence is rooted in his reading of the Bible. Although treated as année object whose sermons space commodities venir be sold and purchased, tourneur is clearly empowered by his literacy, which cette uses à articulate a routine sentiment du injustice. Turner’s religious discourse underpins his growing political awareness; auto more plantations cette visits, auto more radical his sermons become. The croyant references ajouter to auto subversive tone ns the film, pointing out auto hypocrisy de a system that abuses spiritual rhetoric to deprive le noir men et women de their humanity. Turner’s religious sermon is penetration with auto rhetoric ns equality that permeates thé Declaration of Independence when he addresses a grouper of enslaved people cette invites to pray and sing v him:

Brethren—I pray tu sing à the lord a new song. Sing worship in the assembly du the righteous. Allow the saint be joyful in glory. Let them song aloud nous their beds. Let thé high praises du God be in auto mouths ns the saints, and a two-edged knife in your hand, venir execute vengeance nous the demonic nations, and punishments conditions météorologiques those peoples! à bind their rois with chains, and their nobles v fetters ns iron! venir execute conditions météorologiques them this written judgment!

9The Birth of a Nation is pervaded par a spiritual iconography that inscribes Turner’s rebellion within the christian master récit of love, suffering, and redemptive resurrection. Taïna Tuhkunen argues that “the three-fold theological plot has actually left its installed imprints nous a longue series du ‘leader biopics’ which consistently mingle the secular and the ‘real’ with auto sacred and the legendary” (Tuhkunen 159). Steven spielberg used such religious allegories in Lincoln (2012), a biopic i m sorry portrays the American president as saint, à la instance in thé deathbed scene wherein a Christlike light haloes Lincoln’s dead body. The Birth de a Nation is a work du hagiography that aims venir elevate turner to auto pantheon of denchères heroes par showing his rebellion ont an action of sacrifice parce que le the routine good. Thé visuals repeatedly emphasize this interpretation: une thinks, for instance, de the appui Turner receives from the différent enslaved who display screen candles conditions météorologiques their doorsteps nous the night after hey is publicly whipped, or du the solar eclipse that tourneur interprets ont a authorize from God venir start his rebellion. Turner’s revelations are influenced from the Old Testament, consisting of a passage from the livre of Samuel in which thé prophet announces thé destruction of the Amalek people, i m sorry in the Confessions he recalls as follows:

And nous the 12th ns May, 1828, je heard a loud noise in auto heavens, and the heart instantly appeared to me and said the serpent was loosened, and Christ had laid down auto yoke cette had borne parce que le the sins of men, and that i should take ce on and fight against thé Serpent, parce que le the temps was fast approaching when the sapin should it is in last and the last must be first. (Turner 11)

10Turner embodies the rebellious heart that runs in thé slave community and the cinématique portrays solidarity among the slaves who join the insurrection. The critique scene spectacle a coporation, groupe of rebels outnumbered par armed soldiers in Jerusalem—a ville that they never ever reached according à historical accounts. Parker eschews claims made par historian William sidney Drewry, who ascribed thé failure ns the insurrection à “the refusal de the slaves in aperçu to participate,” in order to reactivating thé myth de the faithful slave (quoted in french 167). If Parker consists of this stereotypical character ont the loger slave Isaiah (Roger Guenveur Smith)—another addition à the source text—he also points out his secluded status by showing that the enslaved homme on the same plantation would quite join auto resistance than continuez living in bondage. Isaiah’s refusal to join auto insurrection does not weaken auto solidarity around Turner, although ce anticipates auto betrayal ns the rebellion par a young boy.

11For New Yorker cinématique critic Richard Brody, Parker’s cinématique is gender-biased because it conveys the men’s perspective only and thereby stays clear of debates on the possible outcomes ns the uprising:

Isaiah <…> it s okay wind ns Nat’s plot and, confronting that the suivant morning, speak Nat that ce means death, bien sur death, parce que le Nat et many other le noir people. Isaiah speak brilliantly and incisively venir Nat; thé preacher, a religious visionary, claims to be exhilaration according to auto will ns God, et Isaiah alerts that Nat peut faire be acting, rather, nous his very own will, no God’s. Isaiah, whose position makes that privy to much in blanche society, correctly understands thé dangers the Nat et his cohorts face—and thé dangers à which lock exposing the entire population ns slaves. Here, too, Parker keeps thé perspective conditions météorologiques men; cette doesn’t visit auto cabins wherein Hark talks v Esther, whereby the divers trusted friend talk with their wives jaune parents, doesn’t suggest at tous that thé others ont any awareness du the dangers or give any type of heed to their plot’s effect on their families. (Brody)

Turner’s Confessions do not incorporate political reflections nous the conséquences of thé revolt. While hey recalls thé visions that motivated him, turner quotes from de nouveau rebel (Will) to suggest that dreams of liberty moved the men to action: “I saluted them on coming up, et asked Will comment came he there, hey answered, his sapin was worth ne sont pas more than others, et his liberty as dear to him. I asked him if cette thought to obtain it? he said cette would, jaune loose <sic> his life” (Turner 12).

12Caroline V. Schroeter objects to thé biopic structure of the film which, she contends,

seems venir adhere venir a modèle of presenting the historical illustration in personalised terms that will “speak to” thé audience, but the method cette employs, i beg your pardon favours evocative close-ups, visuel symbolism, directive music etc., threatens venir overshadow the political message of couleur noire power that, ostensibly, is the film’s cause première d’être. Parker’s imperative à present Turner ont the focal point, et to conceive du him in Christ-like state (visually et narratively) results, too, in the diminuer of the soutien characters. (Schroeter 147)

As Genovese notes, taille uprisings rarely happened without solid leaders who can prevent interior dissension et betrayal (Genovese 8). Among divers rebels, Gabriel Prosser in Richmond (1800) and Denmark Vesey in Charleston (1822) to plan strategies for their uprisings et provided political and military leadership. Parker uses elaborate visuals et music to legitimize Turner’s fight, which remains a cinematographic taboo topic ont suggested by the dearth of film dealing with slave rebellion. In est différent words, Parker uses the typical biopic techniques—including the chrétien narrative de sacrifice—in order venir celebrate the memory de Turner. Auto biopic visually underlines the rebel’s exceptional insight and judgment à transcend auto meaning of année insurrection right into an acte of liberation. Auto speech hey delivers in front de the enslaved men et women who have been made free par the killing of their masters positions him as a guider to freedom. The upward shot and dramatic music heighten thé power of his words at a key moment—when men et women oui to decide whether castle will continue the fight for freedom:

Your earthly understand is gone. Elle are now free men et woman, servants ns only auto Lord.

Voir plus: Ces Moments Inoubliables Du Grand Prix D Espagne F1 2016, Revivez Le Grand Prix D'Espagne F1 2021

Are we dead? No. I say nous are currently alive, seeing through eyes that ont been denied us since being bondir into thé darkness ns bondage. Stand with us—that your divers captive brothers et sisters may also know freedom. Stand, that our children, pour generations venir come will know that with auto supernatural power du God, nous straightened our backs against thé works ns the evil one.

auto enslaved as agents of subversion et resistance

13Parker calls attentif to acts ns subversion et resistance among auto enslaved. Auto opening sequence du The Birth of a Nation portrays a community de maroons conférence in the woods to celebrate Nat Turner’s African family tree in a consciousness where the elders acknowledge thé special status du a kid bearing the three point of wisdom, courage, and vision nous his chest, which designate him as a leader et a prophet. This inaugural scene challenges Eurocentric readings ns slavery passant par introducing ethnicity in thé lives of the enslaved as année emancipation path. Few roman films actually couvert the maroons that “settled in thé wilderness, live there in secret, and were not under any kind of direct control par outsiders” (Diouf 1). Chronicler Sylviane A. Diouf defines that “autonomy to be at thé heart de their project et exile the means à realize it” (Diouf 2). The reference à marronage accounts for Turner’s filmic rêves of liberty. The same succession filmed in the woods at night shows up in a dream et in a flashback later in auto film, both suggesting the existence of an alternative world et pointing out the compelling power du the African imagination over auto bleak reality du slavery. Marronage also conveys année ideal de freedom that cannot it is in compromised passant par running far to thé North while est différent people remain enslaved in the South. Cette helps convey the radical understanding du freedom i beg your pardon the cinématique espouses through auto portrayal of Turner’s rebellion—a vue also inherited from Turner’s father, who is forced to flee after accidently killing a servant hunter in a fight parce que le his very own life. Jeune Nat witnesses auto scene once his dad catches auto man’s gun and runs pour his life; auto scene portrays his father ont a slave rebel quite than année Uncle Tom. The sequence that follows shows patrollers visite Turner’s mother and grandmother to des questions them about the boy’s father’s escape, but all remain silent et claim ignorance. Survive is bound venir deceit, i beg your pardon is one of the tons lessons thé child learns around slavery oui he himself shares in thé secrecy.

14The film delves into slavery ont a gyeongju system du labor opération which thé enslaved make every attempt à subvert. Close-ups conditions météorologiques Nat’s hands as he is forced to pick cotton after his master’s fatality convey thé objectification of the boy; a long shot de the noodle fields says the first of job awaiting him whereas année aerial tracking shooting over auto cotton flowers conveys his lack de prospects. An imperceptible couper turns his bleeding child’s hands into an adult’s, embedding thé time lapse de his teenage year into an ellipsis. The caméra captures the qualifié adult hand as it choose cotton conveniently without shedding a drop of blood; tourneur may have become a maquette slave, cible he is additionally shown preaching in front du the est différent enslaved, thereby appearing oui representative de a neighborhood that bonds together through praying et singing. “Let us bow our heads,” hey says in année invitation to collectively pray for the Lord, a message which, passant par the end de the film, he subsequently revises and transforms into a appel for rebellion. Auto sequence serves à highlight Turner’s sense ns leadership et his autorité over the enslaved. The Birth ns a Nation follows a causal récit that allows Nate Parker à emphasize enslaved men’s ability to generate action; Turner’s vue of du sang oozing out de a corn cob may be année illumination but it leads him à rebellion. The cinématique shows the Turner’s spiritual consciousness develops into a rebellious instinct ont he visits more and more plantations, witnessing auto horrors ns a slave système that produce misery amongst his other enslaved.

15Parker provides intertextuality to ajouter significance to image that ont become clichés v overmediatization. Image of victimization room used à enhance resistance. Auto scene whereby a white dog attacks tourneur is storage of an iconic picture by facture Hudson showing a policier dog attacking an African American poli rights demonstrator in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. Whereas civil rights photography conveyed, in the words of guttin A. Berger, “the determined essai of the white press to frame the civil rights movement ont nonthreatening” by showing (active) white revendeur agréé exercising puissance over (passive) blacks, Parker reframes auto photograph in close-ups that emphasize security gestures to signify resistance nous Turner’s aller (Berger 7). Thé re-appropriation du such visuals not seul testifies to thé enduring legacies de the past over thé present, saying that contemporary policier brutality is rooted in thé racial (if no racist) history du the nation, but it additionally relates images of antebellum victimization to the civil rights narrative, connecting individual and invisible acts de slave resistance to auto long routine struggle. Thé close-up nous the swollen face of Turner’s mam Cherry (Aja Naomi King) lied in bed after elle has been brutalized and raped is additionally reminiscent de press photographs de Emmett till in his coffin the were used to display thé racist motivations behind segregation and support the civil rights struggle. Likewise, Turner’s scarred back after hey is whipped for baptizing a white homme evokes the lacerated back de Gordon, année enslaved homme who joined the Union army in 1863 after hey ran away. Thé Army surgeon fabriqué a d’image of his ago that ended up being part of abolitionist intuitif culture. Auto intertextual nature of the visuals in the cinématique reveals that The Birth ns a Nation is a intended attempt to challenge the étendard patterns in slavery-themed Hollywood films—including Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) which, Karen A. Johnson contends, “reinscribes previous ideological myths about slavery” by presenting Django (Jamie Foxx) as “the superior black” in counterpoint to auto “docile and content enslaved individuals” (Johnson 213). The Birth of a Nation challenges stereotypes by highlighting thé agency ns the enslaved. While thé biopic underscores Turner’s exceptional abilities as a leader, the cinématique does not endorse a power structure opposing house and field servants. The only racial hierarchy that supporter out entrenches auto color line as a obstacle between auto slave quarters and the “big house” de the plantation.

Revising auto Hollywood slave regard

16While The Birth de a Nation adheres to a classic Hollywood narrative structure, it reverses the racial bespeak in cinematic terms by foregrounding blanche stereotypes du the redneck. Rather than assigning le noir people venir a position du “otherness,” Nate Parker transforms white toutes les personnes into the “other” by filming from the alloue of view ns the enslaved. The camera is positioned conditions météorologiques the side de the couleur noire characters and the configuration of shots delineates an are along racial lines. Caméra movements are fluid in the slave quarters when following young Nat Turner as he operation through the alleys where the women do their chores, vice versa, still long shots convey thé rigidity ns the plantation system. Auto plantation mansions loom in thé distance, making thé enslaved the estranged spectators du a tons of comfort live indoors. Auto same distance, however, allows for some autonomy nous the part du the slaves, whose rêver cannot it is in controlled, as suggested par the rêves of flight entertained by Turner ont a child. Historian john M. Vlach suggests that the enslaved “were under control cible they to be not entirely coerced de that regulate because, when they were being hosted down, lock were likewise being held out et away native the centre of authority” (Vlach 222). The Birth de a Nation explores auto interstices in thé slave system, auto liminal spaces where thé enslaved can carve out pockets du resistance. Mise-en-scène records those spaces in auto woods and around thé plantations, where the enslaved pour échapper à surveillance et carry out genealogical traditions et ceremonies. Thé intimate sequences between thé newlywed Nat and Cherry contribute to thé film’s melodramatic ton while illustrating feelings of amour that humanize the characters.

17The cinématicien is a slave narrative that aims à undercut the “melodrama of black and white” i m sorry historian john Blassingame defines ont “miscegenation and cruelty, outraged virtues, unrequited love, and planter licentiousness” characterizing many abolitionist literary works (Blassingame 373). Borrowing native Henry James, literary scholar Robin Bernstein refers venir Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) ont a livre that produced a “‘state de vision, de feeling et of consciousness’—that is to say, subjectivation” around slavery de exploiting the volontier of childhood (Bernstein 14). “The violence du slavery,” Bernstein argues, “constituted an attack on Topsy’s organic innocence, which might be partially restored—transmitted—through thé loving touch du a white child” (16). Parker refuses to indulge in auto melodramatic tropes du slave narratives by proleptically positioning jeune Samuel Turner oui a potential risk in auto opening sequence. The hide-and-seek jeu the black and white children phat creates tension ont the camera focuses conditions météorologiques the blanche boy’s two feet when hey opens thé door ns the shack where Nat is hiding, foreshadowing the menacer that the white homme (Armie Hammer) later comes to embody. Long shots more convey an unbridgeable déménage between thé boys, exhibiting the race and class differences through sets and clothes. Filmed from jeune Nat’s mettre en ordre of view, the mansion where thé white boy lives supporter in forbidden territory in the distance. Subjective shots undermine auto representation of année idealized antebellum southerly life, conveying auto boy’s estrangement from blanche culture oui symbolized de the mansion which cette approaches once there is no joie to be seen—as implied by the cut showing the a book has disappeared nous the former porch and is currently in auto hands de the audacious boy.

18The director eschews année overly intimate portrayal of his characters à avoid excessive sentimentality. Parker no plays up intensif emotionalism venir arouse sympathy with the wretched characters—be lock raped and whipped black women and men, or terrorized southerly belles—nor does hey visually jaune narratively linger conditions météorologiques the melodramatic elements du the genre. Contrary to 12 year a Slave, in i beg your pardon Steve McQueen highlights the misfortunes du enslaved life through aural and visual elements that make sadism montrer clairement (Wilderson 146), including a musical score that “brings terrible, horrible splendor” et long shots that placed labor on display (Redmond 157), Parker tones down the donnant of slavery by using cut that leave rape unseen.

19Parker downplays melodrama by avoiding round characterization et using together stereotypes oui the redneck who, Williamson writes,

drinks tough liquor—and no at cocktails parties. He’s theatrically lazy marqué remains virile. He nearly always possesses auto wherewithal for physical violence—especially including dogs and guns. He’s gullible once skepticism would certainly be wiser, and he’s stupid when smart would be safer. Cette reminds nous symbolically ns filth, du disgusting bodily functions. (Williamson 2-3)

The cinématique captures the leering gazes ns the homme during année auction where année African American mrs is put on display for toutes les personnes to visually et imaginarily consume. The woman is clearly sold as a sexual object in a step which the cinématicien does no sentimentalize; she does not ont a name jaune a voice. Over there is no heart-wrenching scene du separation between a mother and her children. The crude scene depicts a blunt system that turns people into commodities venir be bought et sold. However, the close-ups on the white men’s smiling faces et ogling eyes emphasize your rugged and rough faciale features; auto actors chosen to embody auto white men express no emotion but lust. Their vicious rigid betrays the evils of the “peculiar institution.”

20The biographical narrative se concentrer sur on Nat turner is expressed de the countless close-ups conditions météorologiques his face, a self-conscious strategy à avoid lingering, voyeuristic gazes at the purp perpetrated against le noir bodies—including Turner’s when hey is publicly whipped. Thé close-up may even it is in read as resistance to thé white objectifying stare in that case, isolating Turner’s croyant words indigenous his listener through caméra movements that undermine thé power de the bible (or the évangiles of Luke), which cette reads the end in order à ensure the submission du the enslaved à their masters et to promote solidarity among them par nurturing a sense de bonding when tous of them sign up with in calendrier prayer, thereby overturning thé expected effect of his preaching. The caméra also focalizes conditions météorologiques Turner’s visage when he is hanged after he turns himself in, a compétence used de Parker à avoid reactivating the faire un don involved in many lynchages photographs. Leigh Raiford examines this photographs et draws on michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish to a été observé that penalty must marque the victim’s body: “Through a macabre exhibition ns torture,” elle writes, “lynching simultaneously retraced thé always currently inscribed signe of infamy, auto victim’s blackness, if celebrating the triumph du mob law” (Raiford 39). Par excluding the crowd from thé scene, i m sorry is cropped from the frame in auto close-up, Parker undermines the admettre of lynching and retains Turner’s humanity. The extreme close-up undercuts objectification passant par capturing indications of tons in lopposition to the cruelty du a jeering crowd. Interestingly, pioneering film housing D.W. Griffith had aptly explored an innovative use ns close-ups to deepen characterization et support récit development passant par making the emotional reactions of his characters montrer clairement at dramatic moment (Stokes, 2007 76). In counterpoint, Parker supplies close-ups ns Turner as a recurring means venir restrain the drama when the spectacle of horror becomes also painful à bear. In auto New Yorker, Richard Brody is much more critical de the close-up oui it appears in Parker’s The Birth du a Nation:

In a scene that’s un autre pivot of the film, autre pivot that relentlessly personalizes Nat’s story, sam orders him à be whipped; Nat is lashed à a post with his arms outstretched favor Christ on the cross, and Parker shows Nat’s agony with extreme closeups nous Nat’s—on Parker’s own—face. Similarly, when Nat is hanged—after passing through his own via Dolorosa, assailed passant par the braying crowd de whites—Parker puts auto camera, absurdly and pompously, in too much closeup conditions météorologiques Nat’s face. Though, early on in auto film, Parker’s intense identification with Nat tourneur leads venir remarkable moments of emotional complexity, cette also leads, later on in thé film, venir a self-aggrandizement that distorts the drama, auto image, and, pour that matter, the spirit of the film.

With Parker spreading himself in the role of Nat tourneur following a le script that the director likewise authored, Brody contends, auto film’s directorial options reveal thé filmmaker’s own “traits of character—arrogance, vanity, and self-importance” (Brody). As suggested in this essay, however, auto close-up may have another purpose when considered ont part du a filmic strategy devised à challenge standard framing.

21Some of the critique sequences ns The Birth de a Nation depict the conséquence of auto rebellion, in specific the lyncher of several le noir men and women. Oz again, the camera pans on their faces before they space hanged; rather than voyeuristically filming dead couleur noire bodies, Parker focuses on the la peinture of a rope tightening with the weight du a humanized human being being hanged. De nouveau sequence expose corpses dangling from the branches of trees, seul like thé “strange fruit” Nina Simone sings about on the extradiegetic score, creating an atmosphere de mourning. The camera tracks backward and movement oz again counters objectification while offering a moment of contemplation. Thé sheer alors of bodies indicates the abattage that followed the rebellion.


22Adopting a transnational strategy that analyzes and compares how the past ns slavery impacts memorializing processes, Elisa Bordin and Anna Scacchi observé that thé United states seems venir deal reluctantly with auto memories de slave rebellions:

Differently from thé Caribbean, wherein rebels and freedom fighters have traditionally been celebrated both in thé public and the private sphere, although not constantly in the service de progressive politics, in auto US auditeur memory slave rebels are toujours considered racially divisive et problematic. (Bordin et Scacchi 13)

The memory de Nat turner certainly arouses ambiguous feelings amongst some american who question the sense du a rebellion which is occasionally reduced venir a “carnage.” Scot français examines how the tale of Nat turner was translated into a peinture, etc series passant par Lawrence Jacobs, a mural by Charles White, et other works de African American artists; french also notes that “a tarif less flattering picture of Turner et his followers arised from the est différent side ns the color line” (French 201, 207). A commemorative disque was set up in Virginia, insisting nous the deadly consequences de the uprising by mentioning the num of white casualties et black rebels punished par law. Yet, these facts fail venir convey auto spirit du the revolt, i beg your pardon Nate Parker aimed to occupation in The Birth of a Nation. The cinématicien stands the end as an attempt venir revise thé slavery narrative de highlighting auto heroic struggle de the enslaved as rebels who desire à la freedom will certainly not it is in subdued by constraint.

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23Although auto tale of Turner’s rebellion is additionally one de defeat leading venir increased repression, auto hanging de the rebel dirigeants at auto end de The Birth du a Nation is followed par a couper to an image ns a couleur noire soldier fighting à la the syndicat in the civil War, which serves venir demonstrate auto impossibility de crushing thé slave’s rebellious spirit. The film’s perspective differs indigenous that of the normative récit about emancipation, which often promote the actions of leading white abolitionists at a politics level oui illustrated in Spielberg’s Lincoln. Parker’s film portrays tourneur as an enlightened servant rebel et hero whose fight gives a corrective to auto representation of slaves oui passive or content. Celeste Marie-Bernier contends that Turner’s memory has actually served differing politics agendas—“from his demonic appearances in proslavery atrocity literatures à his circulation oui a magnificent symbol in hagiographic texts written to inculcate race pride and endorse le noir fights for civil rights” (Bernier 72). The Birth du a Nation puts un autre spin on the tale ns Nat Turner, turning him into a martyr whose fight for freedom auto director aims to have acknowledged in thé nation’s racial narrative.