“A Birth of a Nation” filmmaker Nate Parker, who wrote, directed and starred in the film, was so intrigued with the story of Nat Turner because he represented a type of hero that Parker thinks we no longer see in the world today.
“Usually, we learn about slavery through the context of endurance or resilience but never though resistance or determination,” Parker told Sharon Waxman at TheWrap’s interview studio at Sundance. “I was like, this guy is a hero. So often in our community, we don’t really have heroes unless they play basketball or play football. To have someone that had integrity, that fought for righteousness, that led something that he thought would create systemic change — the system was corrupt, the system was evil — I thought that was intriguing.”
“Birth of a Nation” stars Parker as Nat Turner, who led a 48-hour slave rebellion against his white masters. Armie Hammer and Aja Naomi King co-star alongside Jackie Earle Haley and Jayson Warner Smith.
The film was not only one of the most anticipated films of Sundance Film Festival, but now, it also broke a record for selling for $17.5 million to Fox Searchlight.
WME Global handled the bidding war, which also included the Weinstein Compan, Sony and Netflix, the latter of which offered $20 million to outbid all of the traditional distributors. In the end, the filmmakers took less money, but went with a proven entity — indie powerhouse Fox Searchlight.
“Birth of a Nation” received multiple standing ovations during its debut at the Eccles during the Sundance Film Festival on Monday and could be an awards contender next year.
Like many filmmakers, Parker hopes that his film will evoke change.
“Especially with the times that have been happening, specifically with this last decade, the things that have happened with police brutality,” he said, “there is a desperate need not only for change but healing internally for the American people, so I wanted to create something that I thought people could watch and just be motivated to question systems around them and their complicity from just being passive.”
In order to do so, Parker feels that simply confronting the past is a step in the right direction.
“I think we all need to think about this idea of honest confrontation with our past as means of going forward,” he added. “Why are we still dealing with the race issue? Because we haven’t really dealt with it. We haven’t had an honest confrontation with our past — this is who we were, these dark ages excited, these people were tortured, there was domestic terrorism happening in the United States of America.”
Watch the video above.