Bringing to life the story of Nat Turner and the Virginia slave rebellion, Nate Parker presents to the public the biggest hit of the Sundance Film Festival: “The Birth of a Nation”.
Turning into a writer and director, the multifaceted Nate Parker slices through current racial controversies surrounding the film/award industry, especially after the Academy released the all white nominations for the second year in a row, with the stunning tale of Nat Turner. Already on lists for most awaited films, Parker had energies high for his film, which cheekily takes its name from D.W. Griffith’s historically racist film. During a panel the multitalented director stated, “D.W. Griffith, wherever his bones are as they back-flip in the grave, he can forever be tethered to Nat Turner and the birth of this new nation of renaissance, of self-determination”. The statement not only shows the fortitude of Parker, but of the film as well. “The Birth of a Nation” received a standing ovation before the film had even begun rolling on screen. This is due to the obvious diversity of the film at a time when racial tensions are high, which Parker addresses in many of his interviews.
Once the film was done being screened, immediately companies understood its success and a bidding war broke out for the film’s rights. In this battle, Fox Searchlight won and is wrapping up a $17.5 million deal to buy the world rights of the film. This breaks all records for the Sundance Film Festival and ends a relentless bidding war between many big brand names like Netflix, Sony Pictures, and more. The immense acknowledgment is a huge success for Parker as a first time filmmaker and a great opportunity to bring the film potentially closer to next year’s award season.
The success didn’t come easy, Parker had started his hiatus from the industry in 2014 to fully focus on “The Birth of a Nation”, which had already been in the works for seven years. He spent $100,000 of personal money along with many large Hollywood names to financially produce the movie, namely Tony Parker and Michael Finley, all resulting in the film costing $11 million to make.
The story of Virginian slave Nat Turner and the turn of events that led to the slave rebellion of 1813, stars many well-known actors such as, Gabrielle Union, Aja Naomi King, Aunjanue Ellis and more, playing crucial members of the historical event. The film is a brutally honest depiction that is physically and mentally hard to swallow, deeming praises similar to that of 12 Years a Slave and Schindler’s List. Parker saw the film as an opportunity to take back a vital part of African American history but to also push audiences to wonder if they maintain racially harmful systems.
Whether or not the people deem the price too high or not, and for whatever the reasons may be, the nature and story of the film itself is important. With beautiful and powerful direction and storytelling, Nate Parker has set the bar quite high for the festival and may have brought a poignant blockbuster. Hopefully Fox Searchlight enhances the strengths of the film with the public, and leads Parker and his team to higher successes.