The title BIRTH OF A NATION is one that carries a lot of baggage in the film world. Mention the name to somebody who’s studied film, and it’s likely to conjure images of the D.W. Griffith silent propaganda picture from the early 1900s, where the Ku Klux Klan was portrayed as a heroic organization, and racial portrayal was appalling at best. Needless to say, when another film uses the same title, it’s worth mentioning. Don’t expect any Klan heroism in this film, however, as this year’s BIRTH OF A NATION follows historical figure Nat Turner, and his leading of a slave rebellion in 1831 Virginia.
While the film does chronicle the historical events in the 1800s, the movie itself is making history in its own way. According to Deadline, BIRTH OF A NATION–which was made on a budget of $10 million) is nearing completion with a deal with Fox Searchlight. The distributor is looking to pay $17.5 million for the rights to distribute the film worldwide, and should the deal go through, it will go down in Sundance history as the biggest deal ever made at the festival.
One of the films that comes closest to that is 2006’s LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, which was purchased for $10.5 million. That film went on to gross over $100 million at the box office, and get nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The movie took home two of those four, including Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor. If what happened to LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is indicative of at all, then we should expect great things from BIRTH OF A NATION. Who knows? This could be this year’s 12 YEARS A SLAVE. Comparisons are also being made to Steven Spielberg’s SCHINDLER’S LIST, which is not something critics do lightly.
BIRTH OF A NATION marks the feature directorial debut of actor Nate Parker. In addition to being the director, Parker also wrote the script, produced the film, and is starring in the lead role of Nat Turner. Needless to say, this project seems to be a very personal project to the director, who purposely snagged the ironic title for the film.
Keep an eye out for the wide release of this film, as I’m sure this isn’t the last you’ll hear of it.