Nate Parker’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’ Sets Sundance Sale Record

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the-birth-of-a-nation-2016-nate-parkerWe've been hearing a lot of buzz about Nate Parker's 'The Birth of a Nation', a film based on Nat Turner and the most successful slave rebellion in U.S. History. Last night the film premiered at Sundance Film festival and received glowing reviews and a standing ovation. Adding to that success, Fox Searchlight has now successfully bid for the world-wide rights to the film. The $17.5 million bid is a record for Sundance.

This is a huge success for Nate Parker. Parker quit acting for 2 years to secure financing for this film. The importance of this on the backdrop of the #OscarSoWhite boycotts is hard to ignore. First off, there has been a demand for a Nat Turner film for decades. While we've seen films on slavery before, never have they ever broached this type of topic and this deal, with promise of a world-wide release during 2016 Oscar season is important. Also, with all the talk about how "It's not about the Oscars, its about diversity of films", I think it's important to realize that there are plenty of minority based films and film makers who go the independent route, we just don't hear about them. Without this deal, 'The Birth of a Nation' could be another great film that is ignored come Oscar time. The same people who ignore these films are the same ones that make up the Academy.  So its not just about making diverse films but also helping to get them financed and distributed. This is a problem that all of Hollywood has to address and the members of the Academy can't sit back and point fingers at their colleagues while at the same time handing out accolades to them. I don't want to be cynical and say that the current controversy is what caused this record setting deal because that takes away from the hard work that Nate Parker put into it. I will say that it was definitely on the minds of those at Fox Searchlight.

Lastly, I'm glad Nate Parker's film can finally erase the 1915 racist film from our memories.

Below is the full press release:

 

[quote]

PARK CITY, UT January 26, 2016 – Fox Searchlight Pictures Presidents Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula announced today that the company has acquired worldwide rights to writer, director, producer and star Nate Parker’s powerful slave drama THE BIRTH OF A NATION, which received a standing ovation following its Sundance Film Festival debut.  The film stars Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Boone Jr., Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Dwight Henry, Aja Naomi King, Esther Scott, Roger Guenveur Smith and Gabrielle Union.  The film is a Bron Studios, Phantom Four, Mandalay Pictures and Tiny Giant Productions production and produced by Parker, Kevin Turen, Jason Michael Berman, Aaron L. Gilbert and Preston L. Holmes with David S. Goyer, Michael Novogratz, Michael Finley, Tony Parker, Jason Cloth, Andy Pollack, Allan J. Stitt, Jane Oster, Barb Lee, Carl H. Lindner III, Derrick Brooks, Jill And Ryan Ahrens, Armin Tehrany, Edward Zwick and Mark Moran serving as executive producers.  The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and will be released wide in 2016.

“From the moment we saw this film we knew we wanted to join Nate Parker in fulfilling his vision as the film’s portrayal of injustice is unfortunately still relevant today.  His dedication and artistry in revitalizing Nat Turner's legacy and place in history has resulted in an extraordinarily compelling and moving film that delivers on every level.  The ensemble cast, led by Nate Parker, is committed and exceptional,” said Gilula and Utley.

“It brings me immense joy and excitement to welcome the Searchlight team into our family. I embrace their shared passion for this film and its potential impact on our country and the world,” said director, writer, producer and star Nate Parker.

“On behalf of the cast, producers, executive producers and all those who came together and supported Nate Parker’s vision, we’re beyond thrilled to have found a home with Fox Searchlight, whose incredible marketing and distribution teams will ensure that this important and powerful film reaches its widest audience,” said Phantom Four’s Kevin Turen, Mandalay Pictures’ Jason Michael Berman, Bron Studios’ Aaron L. Gilbert and Preston Holmes.

Set against the antebellum South, 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 deal was brokered by Fox Searchlight’s Executive Vice President of Business Affairs Megan O’Brien and Senior Vice President of Acquisitions & Co-Productions Ray Strache, with WME Global and Christian Simonds and Jared Bloch of Gray Krauss Stratford Sandler Des Rochers on behalf of the filmmakers.

Fox Searchlight Pictures is a specialty film company that both finances and acquires motion pictures. It has its own marketing and distribution operations, and its films are distributed internationally by Twentieth Century Fox. Fox Searchlight Pictures is a unit of 21st Century Fox.

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