Bill I’s Rating – 4 out of 5
I resisted seeing this film due to the recently made public story of the director and actor, Nate Parker, being accused of rape years ago. It’s the Woody Allen, Roman Polanski issue, where I refuse to patronize these “artists” who have abused women/girls, whether or not they have been convicted. But, spurred on by a tweet from actor Hal Holbrook, along with Gabrielle Union’s online encouragement, I decided to see the film, and I’m glad I did. It’s very well done, incredible portrayal of slavery life on southern plantations in 1809. Beyond what are now cliche characters (vicious plantation manager, maternal slave owner, incredibly cruel plantation owners, house slave, cotton pickers, etc.) it showed how religion was used to give hope of a rewarding after-life to those toiling this life’s hell, as well as to strike fear of a demanding God to obey their masters. Nat Turner does his duty, including being carted around to nearby plantations as the preacher who will keep the slaves obedient and in line, while their labor is extracted in the way one would ride one’s horse as long as possible while spending as little money and food as possible, no personal love or care necessary. Until a line is crossed, which in this case is rape and beating of his wife. Articles have been written protesting this subservient role of the black women, who in this film are powerless and serve as a reason, an affront to the men’s egos, who passively nod their heads while they see their men go off to act on violent, and certainly suicidal, rebellion. It becomes a revenge film at the end, portraying some graphic violence, and not in the Tarantino “fun violence” sense. The final scenes of “strange fruit” hanging from the trees are haunting, as is the crowd’s animal like lashing out as Nat is brought to the hangman. It made me think, has it really been only 200 hundred years since Americans acted this way? Slavery continued until 150 years ago. Lynchings and the KKK continued to occur until when, only 60 years ago? Civil rights violence with Bull Connor and the March in Selma was in the 60s. Haven’t we progress so far since then? Are we really such a progressive society? That’s a different film. In fact, such a film was made; I reviewed Fruitvale Station only 3 years ago.