The courage behind ‘The Birth of a Nation’

(WSVN) - It takes real courage to stand up for what’s right, which is why we’re sitting down. Good thing Chris Van Vliet is here with a look at courage behind “The Birth of a Nation.”

This is a powerful movie, and one of those movies that, when it’s over, you just kind of sit there and digest what you just experienced. I flew to Toronto to break down this movie with the cast.

Nate Parker (as Nat Turner): “Submit yourselves to your masters with all respect.”

“The Birth of a Nation” tells an important historical story, but not one you’ll find in most history books.

Armie Hammer (as Samuel Turner): “Have you learned your lesson, boy?

Nate Parker (as Nat Turner): “Oh yes, sir, I’ve learned.”

It centers around Nat Turner, who after a lifetime of slavery decided to rise up, start a rebellion and fight the system.

Nate Parker (as Nat Turner): “We’ll fight.”

Nat is played by Nate Parker, who also wrote, produced and directed the film — and with all the Oscar buzz surrounding this, we should point out it’s the first movie he’s directed. Not a bad way to start out.

Chris Van Vliet: “When you were writing this, did you have the idea that you were going to play Nat the whole time?”

Nate Parker: “Yes. I always wanted to play Nat Turner. As an actor, there’s always that dream job.”

Mark Boone Junior (as Reverend Zalthall): “Your slaves sure do know how to behave well.”

Armie Hammer (as Samuel Turner): “I thank God for them. One of them is a preacher.”

Armie Hammer knows a thing or two about awards season after starring in “The Social Network” and “J. Edgar.” Here he plays a slave owner.

Armie Hammer (as Samuel Turner): “Boy, you better say something and quick.”

Chris Van Vliet: “This is not an easy character to play, because he’s not necessarily a bad guy, but he does bad things. How do you walk that fine line?”

Armie Hammer: “You gotta find the humanity in it. This is a guy that was born with every good intention and could have been a good person, but he was just born in a time when there was a poisoned system in place that corrupted everything.”

While the movie may have slaves in it, the cast is clear: It’s not a slave movie.

Nate Parker: “I don’t think this is a slave movie at all. I think this is a movie about freedom.”

Aja Naomi King: “It is a movie about revolution and rebellion and resistance. It is a film about how powerful we are and how that’s inside of all of us.”

Gabrielle Union tells us this is a movie that will make you cry, and not just any old cry.

Gabrielle Union: “Not the silent weepie, it’s the soul-rattling, like I can’t leave this theater in the same way that I walked into it.”

Nate Parker (as Nat Turner): “Praise the Lord! Sing to Him a new song!”

“The Birth of a Nation” opens in theaters on Friday.

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