If you are like me, you may have done a double take at the headline “Armie Hammer Joins The Birth of a Nation.” In this case, we are not talking about a remake of the starkly racist silent film by D.W. Griffith, but rather a biopic of slave-turned-revolutionary Nat Turner being directed by Nate Parker.
The Birth of a Nation will tell the story of Turner, an African-American slave who led a bloody slave rebellion in 1831. The insurrection moved across Virginia, liberating slaves and leaving 60 white men, women, and children dead in the aftermath. Nat Turner was eventually captured and hung, but he remains one of the most controversial figures of pre-Civil War America.
Actor Nate Parker makes his directorial debut with The Birth of a Nation, in which he’s also starring, so it’s a feather in the cap to land Hammer to appear in the film. The actor will be appearing as Samuel, the son of Turner’s first master, Benjamin Turner.
The title of the film is certainly provocative, recalling as it does Griffith’s original 1915 film about the creation of the Ku Klux Klan. That film has been roundly criticized for its very racist portrayal of slaves in the South, and the glorification of a racist society. To take that title and apply it to the story of a famous slave rebellion in the antebellum South is a powerful commentary on American film history, and a very effective marketing strategy at the same time.
There does not appear to be any word on when The Birth of a Nation will get going, but we can hope that it will be in the very near future.