“Birth of a Nation”, once again, promises to be the most controversial film of the time!

D.W Griffith, who was responsible for the first blockbuster in history with the 1915 film Birth of a Nation, is considered by many to be the inventor of cinematic language. However, this same production is one of the most explicitly racist of all time.

The film tells the story of the American Civil War by the southern perspective of the country, which fought against the north for the right to own slaves. This racist view of the time is clear already in the first sentence, which placed the guilt of war on African slaves, brought to the country against their will: “The African transport to America planted the first seed of disunity.” When the south loses combat, Griffith shows the slaves stereotypically and maliciously, pushing whites who are walking peacefully on the streets, disrespecting public places, using violence to persuade whites to vote for northern candidates, or forcing white women to their girlfriends (a possible euphemism for rape).

This year, the American director Nate Parker produced a re-reading of the controversial film of Griffith, putting the original upside down. While in 1915 it is the southern white men who endure humiliation for the union of the nation, in the 2016 version are the slaves and former slaves who tell their part of the story.

One of the most iconic scenes in Griffith’s movie shows a white girl trying to escape a former slave until she ends up falling on a cliff. The passage subtly shows that the woman would rather die than be raped by an ex-African slave. . This is an important episode, as is the scene that shows the racist organization known as KKK (Ku Klux Klan) as heroic. On the other hand, in the retelling of 2016 made by Nate Parker, an African woman is raped by whites.

Like the 1915 film, that of Nate Parker promises to be a great success – it was purchased by Fox Searchlight for $ 17.5 million after winning the important Sundance festival, a record for independent productions. However, like Griffith’s, which sparked major controversy, protests and riots in the early 20th century, Parker is already giving his talk even before his debut in American cinema on October 7.

With the success between the critics and their possible Oscar nomination, facts of Nate Parker’s personal life began to appear on the Internet. In 1999, he and his friend Jean McGianni Celestin, screenwriter of the film, were accused of raping a student at the University of Pennsylvania, where they also studied. She accused Parker and Celestin of psychological abuse after she reported the rape. While Parker was found innocent by the jury, Celestin was arrested. A decade later, the student committed suicide, apparently without being able to deal with the problems caused by the event.

At the same time that Griffith wanted to elevate cinema to stature of art, and in a certain way, achieved this, he also shared opinions. Already Parker would like his re-reading to make the Americans confront the past, being for him that is the only way to cure the racial problems of the present. Despite being applauded at the Toronto International Film Festival, the current version of the film Birth of a Nation is dividing the United States. Many claim that Nate is hypocritical by speaking for all to look into the past while he avoids any question about his. There are also those who can not separate the artist from his art, like some members of the Oscar committee, who do not even want to watch the movie – much less vote for it. Others say that the film has to have its own merit. But still, some African Americans are arguing whether they should boycott the movie.

Whatever the point of view, the 2016 film seems to create as many problems as solutions, generating polemics that can go beyond the quality and value of production. For example, many accuse Parker of being homophobic, considering he did not want to make gay films to “preserve the black man.”

Griffith’s film appeared in 1915, a year in which the world was divided by the First World War and in which millions of Afro-descendants began to migrate to the north of the country in search of better living conditions. Parker’s appears in 2016, a year in which race and discrimination problems are on the agenda, and at a time when the world appears to be increasingly divided.

The release of the film in Brazil was scheduled for January 2017, but due to the controversy, it was anticipated for November of this year. It only remains to wait to know what the retelling of Parker will represent in the history of cinema and what will be its consequences in a time of such disunity.

Know more about the director’s Daniel Bydlowski campaign: Mais Entretenimento, Menos Bullying.

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