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The directorial debut for Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation sets a new sales record at Sundance, netting a $17.5 million distribution deal from Fox Searchlight, according to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. An overnight bidding war included offers from The Weinstein Co., Netflix and Paramount.
It’s the most expensive purchase ever made at the Sundance Film Festival (far outstripping the $10.5 million paid for Little Miss Sunshine a decade ago).
The slavery drama is a powerful story centered around a slave rebellion led by Nat Turner in 1831. Its title references D.W. Griffith’s 1915 Ku Klux Klan propaganda movie of the same name.The timing was nothing short of incredible. The Sundance Film Festival had been buzzing for five days with discussions on diversity following the Academy’s announcement of almost all-white nominees (for the second year in a row).
Then The Birth of a Nation arrived, thoughtfully and thoroughly exposing the roots of American racism.
Best known for his performances in Beyond the Lights, Red Tails, The Secret Life of Bees and The Great Debaters, Parker spent seven years working on The Birth of a Nation, a movie he calls his “passion project.” (He writes, directs, and stars.)
“I made this film for one reason – in the hope of creating change agents,” said Parker during the film’s Q&A. “You can watch this film and see there are systems that were in place that were corrupt and corrupted people. And the legacy of that still lives with us.”
As Deadline and others reported, the movie “had audience members crying in their seats and jumping to their feet in a prolonged standing ovation at the film’s conclusion.”
Congrats to Nate Parker on his well deserved success during his directorial debut. He is definitely On the RYSE! Can’t wait until open night.