During a special NewsOne Now/Tom Joyner Morning Show simulcast, Roland Martin delivered fiery commentary Wednesday about Hollywood and mainstream media’s efforts to devalue Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation.
According to media reports, the Nat Turner biopic earned $7.1 million at the box office this weekend, a figure Hollywood deemed a disappointment because it did not meet the projected estimated opening weekend box office total of $10 million.
If you remember, Birth of a Nation was produced with a $10 million dollar budget and Fox Searchlight purchased the worldwide rights to the film for $17.5 million, he says.
In response to mainstream media’s attempt to devalue the Nat Turner biopic, Martin proclaimed, “We do not operate by mainstream media’s narrative in terms of what they say is a flop or what isn’t.”
The Host and Managing Editor of NewsOne Now expounded on his point: “There have been many people who’ve been trying to make a movie about Nat Turner who have never been able to. The fact that it got made is a success.”
Martin questioned the narrative that Birth of a Nation is a flop after only being in theaters for one week, as well as the media’s attempt to vilify Parker, the film’s writer and producer, by means of a decades-old rape case in which he was acquitted.
“The problem is when we accept somebody else’s narrative about our stories,” said Martin, adding, “The reality is a movie that makes $7.2 million was made for $10 million. Where I come from, that’s not necessarily a flop.”
Despite Fox Searchlight doling out $17.5 million for the film, Martin said, “They are likely going to make money on the movie as it stays out.”
He continued, “Here’s what I understand: very rarely are our stories told on the big screen, especially a story of a Black man killing a whole bunch of White folks in slavery…you’re not going to see that type of movie on a consistent basis.
“You have potential movies in development in Hollywood where they’re pressing the pause button saying, ‘Well, if this didn’t do so well, we shouldn’t make this movie.'”
Imploring viewers to understand the system, Martin explained African-Americans must be careful “when beginning to use the language of others in describing films that impact us.”
He quoted the lead editorial from Freedom’s Journal some 190 years ago: “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us…
“I expect Black newspapers and Black television and Black radio not to parrot the narrative of mainstream media, but to offer the counter-narrative, because that has been our history in Black media for the last 189 years,” continued Martin.
He then challenged those who say they will not support the film due to Parker’s past alleged indiscretions: “If we get caught in reading HIS story and allowing HIS story as opposed to history, we’re going to keep repeating the exact same thing.
“Enough of somebody else describing our history! Here is an opportunity for us to see a Black freedom fighter on the big screen, because trust me, rarely will Hollywood show you Black freedom fighters they way they have in this movie.”
Watch Roland Martin’s entire commentary in the video clip above.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty