Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media


Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation: Classical Hollywood Cinema or Independent Rebellion?

Caroline V. Schroeter


Abstract: The depiction of racial minorities such as African Americans has changed over the last decades and the film industry is experiencing a period of transition towards new images of black identity. In this context, my article explores the complexities of Nate Parker’s cinematic slave narrative The Birth of a Nation (2016). Parker’s choices are constantly guided by reimagining, revising, and reclaiming the (hi)story and the representation of African Americans. I argue that, although Parker attempts to set his film up as an oppositional force to D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915), his employment of a style that is heavily reliant on the conventions of classical narrative storytelling makes such aspirations problematic. This article demonstrates Parker’s use of classical features and considers whether he subverts the dominant mode by creating an independent black film, or whether his message is weakened by his reliance on (white) industry standards.

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