After a long “teaser” for debut director Nate Parker’s highly praised The Birth of a Nation came out a couple months ago, a new, 2.5 minute trailer has been released by Fox Searchlight. It differs entirely in tone, and at this point it should perhaps be said that pretty consistently, long teaser trailers are superior to “full” trailers: the former captures a beguiling quality about a film’s tone, aesthetic and rhythm, while the latter often seems too intent on imposing its own miniature three-act-arc on the narrative, often revealing far too much and needing to play up sentimentalism to hasten the mini-arc.
The film stars Parker (who, apart from starring and directing, also wrote and produced the film) as the preacher/slave Nat Turner, and follows him from when he was exploited by white slaveowners to subdue other slaves with his sermons to, after witnessing and experiencing innumerable atrocities, his eventual leading of the slave rebellion that’d be named after him.
Here, in the new trailer, there’s more of an emphasis on a somewhat simplifying form of inspiration. Hollywood-y emotional dictation is laid onto the film via the usage of Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” pushing it tonally into the territory of any other narrative about injustice that Hollywood tends to pacify with sentimentality — which, from everything that’s been said by critics, is not at all what Birth of a Nation actually is. But, beneath this new trailer’s Hollywood-y pandering, one can still see why the film was so well-received. As Flavorwire’s own Jason Bailey said in seeing the film at Sundance:
This is a confident, assured piece of filmmaking; you’d never guess it was the work of a first-time director, thanks to not only the patience of the storytelling, but the modesty of the style. [Parker’s] not trying to dazzle you, as so many debuting directors do… It’s not comforting; in its most disturbing moments, Birth traffics in sheer, visceral terror, in the threat of brute force that festers in these rooms and in these fields, and often arrives with no warning or recourse. And yet faith endures.
Watch the new trailer:
Watch the far better trailer: