Sharon Ewell Foster, author of the new fact-based novel, The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part One: The Witnesses, recently took her book tour to Los Angeles in hopes of making contact with some important figures in Hollywood.
In the wake of Danny Glover’s efforts to get his Toussaint Louverture project off the ground, and Jamie Foxx starring in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, Foster is hoping to add one more slave revolt/revenge film to the pack.
As leader of the 1831 Virginia revolt that left more than 50 whites dead, Turner is a figure controversial enough to make it tough to get a film about him made. There’s been talk of different parties trying in the past, perhaps most notably Spike Lee, who floundered due to lack of funding.
But Foster believes the world is ready for a new perspective:
“The image of Turner we have been bequeathed is one of a religious fanatic, a lunatic who attacked without cause. Perhaps, he was like Nathan Hale, a man seeking liberty, a man protecting his family and community. I think we are mature enough to look at our complete history knowing that the beauty of it is also in the terror of it.”
Foster takes a similar stance to Lee in discrediting the primary historical document on Turner, The Confessions of Nat Turner, written in 1831 by Thomas Gray, who purported to be Turner’s attorney. Her five years of research included interviewing descendants of those killed, as well as Turner’s family, review of Governor John Floyd’s original diary, and analysis of trial transcripts and related documents.
Still, I wonder whether Foster’s story will have the narrative drive to push past the inevitable difficulties of making a film where 50 white people get killed, at the hands of blacks. Unlike Foster, I’m not so sure whether our society is that mature.