Variety reports that "The Birth of a Nation" is closing a record $17.5 million deal with Fox Searchlight after its premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The film centers around the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner in Southhampton County, Va., in August 1831. Turner and over 70 free and enslaved blacks killed somewhere around 60 white men, women, and children before they were stopped after two days by a white militia twice in size. Turner eluded capture for two months before he was found, sent to trial, and hanged.
The drama was written, directed, and produced by Nate Parker, who also stars as Turner, and shared his purpose for the film and the struggles he encountered in its creation during the Q&A following the Sundance showing.
“I made this film for one reason: creating change agents,” Parker said after the premiere in a Q&A where he brought more than 40 members of the cast and crew onstage. He noted that there are “systems in place that are corrupt and corrupted people, and the legacy of that still lives with us.”
Parker said he spent seven years working to get the film to the big screen. “It was extremely difficult for many reasons,” he said. “The first was our subject matter: anytime we are dealing with our history, specifically slavery, I found that desperately sanitized. There’s a resistance, I’ll say, to dealing with this material.” He said that financiers told him they weren’t sure there was an audience for the story, and that “people overseas don’t want to see people of color” in a movie.