PARK CITY, Utah — Nate Parker’s film about legendary Nat Turner is on the opposite end of the slave spectrum from, say, the critically-acclaimed and Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave. Turner was not only not a victim, he (and the likes of Denmark Vescey and Gabriel Prosser) has attained almost mythical status in the urban community over the centuries as he led a bodacious and violent slave revolt in 1831. Finally, his story is going to be told on the big screen in the movie The Birth of a Nation.
The film, which Parker wrote, produced, directed and acted in, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday in suburban Salt Lake City and was given a rousing standing ovation. Immediately, studios began jockeying for position to purchase the lightning rod of a film. Fox Searchlight won the worldwide rights to the movie for a whopping $17.5 million, the biggest sale of a festival film in history.
Actually, another studio offered even more. Netflix, which has exploded from a niche movie platform into a major international player in recent years, offered Parker a hefty $20 million to buy out his film. However, Parker was reportedly more interested in a theatrical release.
Parker, previously known in such films as Secret Life of Bees, Red Tails,Beyond the Lights and The Great Debaters, told the audience at Sundance that he began the process of writing the film seven years ago. The talented thespian went so far as to take a two-year moratorium on acting and immersed himself fully into the completion of the film about the legendary slave hero.
“When I learned about this in college, it was something I gravitated toward,” Parker recounted of Turner. “I felt like even before I became a filmmaker, this was something I wanted to acclaim and apply to my life.”
Parker also added that the movie had already “won” before it was presented at Sundance, arguably the most prestigious film festival in the world outside of Cannes.
“I keep saying, ‘We’ve won already. The movie exists, we contributed to it as a family, it belongs to us,’” Parker said according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Everything that comes after this is bonus.”
Because of its record-breaking purchase, anticipation is building for its eventual theatrical release.