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The Cinema Now program section of the 2016 Bratislava International Film Festival (BIFF) will feature The Birth of a Nation and Nocturnal Animals, two of the most prominent and progressive motion pictures that have resonated during this year’s festival season

American actor/director Nate Parker’s feature-length debut, The Birth of a Nation (2016), claimed two main prizes – namely Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize – at this year’s Sundance Film Festival amidst the ultra-white Oscar season. On top of directing it, he also wrote the screenplay and rendered the main character of Nat Turner, a priest who in 1831 led a rebellion of black slaves in Virginia. A revenge drama, The Birth of a Nation is a tale of righteous and bloody punishment for an unforgivable crime. Like Twelve Years a Slave (2013) by Steve McQueen, it is most powerful when it dwells on the particulars of that crime, on the everyday wickedness of 19th-century slavery.

By teaching her son’s childhood playmate and now young slave Nate to read the Bible, the mother of slave-owner Samuel Turner invoked in him a perverse pastoral calling. At first, Nate wanders around the country to preach obedience to his fellow slaves, but as he witnesses their unspeakable torture and deprivation he becomes radicalized and his eloquence, charisma and knowledge of Scripture become the weapons deployed against his oppressors. A strong story with a terrific momentum is further amplified by beautiful imagery and stunning performances. A film that has been mentioned as a potentially strong competitor at upcoming Oscars, The Birth of a Nation will not make it to commercial distribution, which means that the Bratislava IFF gives all cinephiles in Slovakia a unique opportunity to see it on the big screen.

A distinguished fashion designer and acclaimed director/scriptwriter, Tom Ford captured attention of film buffs and critics alike already back in 2009 by his directorial debut, Single Man. This year, he comes with a gripping thriller noir, Nocturnal Animals (2016), which snatched Grand Jury Prize from this year’s Venice IFF. When writing the screenplay, Ford said he drew inspiration from Tony and Susan, a nail-biting psychological novel by American author Austin Wright.

Susan is a relatively happy and successful woman. When she lays hands on a manuscript of Nocturnal Animals, a new novel written by her ex-husband Edward, she initially views it as pleasant pastime, only if its story was not so unsettling: a happy middle-aged man takes his family to a vacation in New Mexico, which is cut short abruptly by a chance night meeting with three violent men on a deserted Texas highway. While tantalised by the story, Susan uneasy feelings that evolve into extreme physical anxiety. The longer she reads the more she realizes that the manuscript is a carefully crafted revenge of her ex-husband for hurting him bad a long time ago. The divorced couple is about to learn the grim truth about themselves. This riveting mysterious drama is also an acting concerto for Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams.

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