If by now you’ve not heard that Nat Turner’s slave drama, The Birth of a Nation, is one of the biggest things to have come out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, then you are probably living in a cave somewhere off the coast of Madagascar.
The film which was written, produced and directed by Nate Parker, received a standing ovation and a roar of applause from viewers when it debuted at Sundance, and has even generated some Oscar Buzz.
This is why it comes as no surprise that the film has been picked up by Fox Searchlight Pictures, which now owns the worldwide distribution rights for a reported fee of $17.5 million.
The Birth of a Nation follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.
The film stars Nate Parker, Gabrielle Union Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Boone Jr., Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Dwight Henry, Aja Naomi King, Esther Scott and Roger Guenveur Smith.
I think all the attention the film is receiving is all good, but my fear is that the Sundance audience can be quite different from the rest of the cinema going audience. This is testified to by the recent not-too-good Box office outings of some of Sundance’s most buzzed about films in recent years, including Rick Famuyiwa’s Dope.
Whatever it turns out to be, it looks like we might have another “Slave trade era” hit on our hands.