It shouldn’t take a genius to read between the lines of Todd McCarthy‘s Hollywood Reporter review of The Birth of a Nation, which premiered in Park City yesterday afternoon. Keep in mind that every reviewer filing for a major outlet knew they had to write very carefully lest they be perceived as having a blockage of some kind.
Toward the end of his review McCarthy notes that The Birth of a Nation “offers up more than enough in terms of intelligence, insight, historical research and religious nuance as to not at all be considered a missed opportunity.” Parker did pretty well considering, he’s saying. The film has issues here and there but it’s not half bad.
“Far more of the essentials made it into the film than not,” McCarthy goes on. “Its makers’ dedication and minute attention are constantly felt and the subject matter is still rare enough onscreen as to be welcome and needed, as it will be the next time and the time after that.” Translation: Parker will be refining his abilities as he goes along and may quite possibly make a truly world-class film down the road.
We’ve all seen Sundance films before where the audience reacts more to the subject matter or a film’s political position, so what happened yesterday is no surprise.
Everyone’s talking about the prolonged standing ovation following the Birth screening, but there was also the huge one at the beginning when Parker was introduced. Given how many producers/executive producers there are and the fact that there were 40 or 50 people onstage at the end, how could anyone fail to umnderstand that a very significant portion of the Eccles audience consisted of people connected to the film? It was a “papered house” if I’ve ever seen one.
Different reactions will surface, trust me, when everyone comes down off the mountain and Parker’s film starts screening at sea level.
I don’t know where HE commenter “Jeff” is based, but what he wrote last night bears repeating:
“(1) Sundance is known for being a festival where uber progressive movies are beloved and frequently get standing ovations.
“(2) The film is written, directed and starring an indie actor and being screened to a bunch of actors, agents and execs. Normal people don’t go to Sundance. Every actor there has a passion project that they want made, this succeeding is great for them.
“(3) The entire industry has listened to Spike Lee and every progressive person in the mainstream media in America call them racist because they wildly underrepresent minorities.
“There was just no way this movie was not going to be well received at Sundance by an audience who all wants to prove how non-racist they are. If you are a reviewer for a mainstream company, you probably also like your job and the heat you will take from panning this movie isn’t worth the professional honesty.
“Respectfully, Fox Searchlight’s $16 million dollar offer came from a billion dollar company. Best case: the movie is truly great, rides the hype to box office and Oscar noms. Worst case: This is a write-off that Fox & Fox Searchlight get to point at to demonstrate they believe in diversity.”