NEW YORK (WABC) --The slave rebellion epic "The Birth of a Nation," opening in theaters this weekend, is certainly getting a lot of attention for its subject matter.
However, the film is also facing scrutiny over a controversy involving Nate Parker, who directed and stars in the movie.
The film debuted as a sensation earlier this year at its first screenings, but controversy erupted when it was revealed that Parker had been charged with raping a woman when he was in college. He was acquitted, but his accuser committed suicide in 2012.
Although it has cast a shadow on the movie's release, it doesn't lessen the impact of the film itself.
Nat Turner is introduced as a boy taught to read and living a gentler life, only to be put to work in the fields when he grows to be a man.
He begins to find his voice as a preacher, sent by his master to pacify other slaves. The horrors he witnesses are so daunting that when he finally resorts to violence, it feels totally justified.
Nat Turner's slave rebellion lasted just two bloody days before soldiers mobilized and killed most of the participants. He escaped for some time, but moviegoers can guess his ultimate fate 30 years before the Civil War.
The cast is uniformly excellent, especially Aja Naomi King as Turner's wife and Armie Hammer as his master.
Hammer's character is a composite one. The real Turner had many masters, but by taking artistic liberties and giving his film the same title as the racist silent film, Parker made history come alive.
"The Birth of a Nation" is a worthy, exciting film. Turner's defiance resonates through the generations to help us make sense of what's happening in our streets today, and that's why this film is essential.