Fox Searchlight’s Birth of a Nation, written and directed by and starring Nate Parker, has just acquired a release date for the fall, according to USA Today. Birth of a Nation, Parker’s Sundance prize-winning drama about Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, will open in theaters nationwide on October 7, 2016.
Nate Parker’s directorial debut was acquired by Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million, the largest purchase in Sundance history. Searchlight beat out other studios who were looking to buy the film, which resulted in a pretty large bidding war. Not only that, but the film also won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award just before the distribution rights were purchased. The film’s October release date is a smart move, considering this will more than likely be a pretty big contender at the Oscars next year, possibly for several different categories. Movies that garner that kind of awards-talk are usually released in the fall/winter, since films released early in the year tend to be forgotten when awards season approaches.
“I made this film for one reason, with the hope of creating change agents. That people can watch this film and be affected. That you can watch this film and see that there were systems that were in place that were corrupt and corrupted people and the legacy of that still lives with us,” said Nate Parker, the writer, director, and star, during the Q&A after the film. “I just want you, if you are affected and you are so moved, to ask yourself, ‘Are there systems in my life that need attention whether it be racial, gender?’ There are a lot of injustices.”
Nate Parker himself is a native of Virginia, only 40 miles east of where Nat Turner’s rebellion actually took place. Parker has been building his acting career in Hollywood for over a decade and put it to the side for nearly two years, while he was trying to make Birth of a Nation. Because of the story centering around slavery in the 1880s, Nate ran into plenty of hardships trying to get financing for the project. The film has several different executive producers, which includes David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Man of Steel), Michael Novogratz, Michael Finley, and Tony Parker.
“It was very difficult, for so many reasons,” Parker said. “I think any time we’re dealing with our history, specifically with slavery, I find that it has been desperately sanitized. There’s a resistance to dealing with this material.”
Nat Turner led a group of slaves on a killing spree, gathering guns, horses, and freeing other slaves from plantation to plantation. There were militias that were organized to hunt down the runaway slaves and bring their uprising to a swift end. In the aftermath, they were accused of the deaths of 50 white people. Fifty-seven black people were executed with Turner, who was found after hiding for months in the woods, being sentenced to death by hanging. According to Preaching Liberation by James H. Harris, an author who has written about the history of church in the black community, the slave rebellion “marked the turning point in the black struggle for liberation” and that “only a cataclysmic act could convince the architects of a violent social order that violence begets violence.”
Birth of a Nation is currently scheduled to open in October, which means it will be going up against The Girl on the Train, Gambit, The Accountant, and Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. The film stars Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Gabrielle Union, and Mark Boone, Jr. Birth of a Nation received rave reviews at Sundance, so it should be no problem for it to sweep up awards next year.
[Photo via Fox Searchlight/Elliot Davis]