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‘Birth of a Nation’ confronts America’s racial past and present

LOS ANGELES: When "The Birth of a Nation" opens in theaters this week, its backers are hoping the film's buzz will finally shift away from the controversy dogging its creator and toward the slavery drama's powerful message about race relations in America. The film about Nat Turner, a slave who led a rebellion in Virginia in 1831, was once hailed as an awards front-runner but has been overshadowed by headlines about a 17-year-old rape case involving the writer, director, producer and lead actor, Nate Parker, who was…