Why the Debate Over Nate Parker Is So Complex

At first, it seemed as though Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation couldn’t have come at a better time. In the wake of #OscarsSoWhite activism and the rapid expansion of the Black Lives Matter movement, a film about Nat Turner’s 1831 rebellion that examined the history and power of black liberation seemed to be just the story America needed to see. When Fox Searchlight purchased the global rights to the movie at the Sundance Film Festival for $17.5 million—a new record for the event—Parker’s ascendancy seemed unstoppable. Excitement rose among black filmgoers for the film’s October release, while Parker seemed like a significant new presence in both the film and activism worlds. Unfortunately, the promise of both him and his movie appears now to be too good to be true.

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