‘The Birth of a Nation’ reviews: Nate Parker film about Nat Turner slave rebellion faces critics amid controversy

A lot has changed since “The Birth of a Nation” was bought by Fox Searchlight at the Sundance Film Festival in January for a record sum of $17.5 million. Director and star Nate Parker has become the center of controversy stemming from a 1999 sexual assault allegation. But what about his film, a biopic of slave rebel Nat Turner, which opened on October 7? Does it live up to its early hype? As of this writing, the historical drama scores 70 on MetaCritic and 77% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes.

Check out some of the reviews below and then be sure to make your Oscar predictions. How do you think “The Birth of a Nation” will do with academy voters? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. And join in the fierce debate over “The Birth of a Nation” taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly): “This ‘Birth’ is also a big, unabashedly ambitious picture, heavy with the weight of history. But its best moments turn out to be the smaller human ones — not the biopic bullet points of Turner the folk hero and symbolic martyr but the more intimate portrait of a son, husband, and father who struggled to reconcile his unshakable faith with the harsh realities of being born a black man in the antebellum South.”

Justin Chang (Variety): “If ’12 Years a Slave’ felt like a breakthrough on that score, then Parker’s more conventionally told but still searingly impressive debut feature pushes the conversation further still: A biographical drama steeped equally in grace and horror, it builds to a brutal finale that will stir deep emotion and inevitable unease.”

‘The Birth of a Nation’: Amid controversy, 13 Oscar experts still predict Best Picture nomination

Marjorie Baumgarten (Austin Chronicle): “The film has played at subsequent festivals to standing ovations, and has also met with loud scorn from those who choose not to see the film because of what they view as its director’s moral lapse … There are images, however, in ‘The Birth of a Nation’ that are so potent, disturbing, and visually precise that they will be seared into my memory for life.”

Bilge Ebiri (Vulture): “Perhaps the most impressive thing about ‘The Birth of a Nation’ is how it alternates between the aestheticized and the immediate without compromising either. Scenes of abject horror are intercut with more dreamlike, symbolic passages, creating a push-pull to the narrative. It’s a beautiful, reflective film even as it is also a brutal, visceral one.”

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