Fox Searchlight, as you will recall, paid a record $17.5 million for Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation at Sundance, and now we are getting our first glimpse of the film. I should warn you that this trailer has some disturbing images of implied violence and a little white girl leading a little black girl around on a leash. However, you can easily see why this film won the Grand Jury prize. And yes, that is Nina Simone’s Strange Fruit you hear.
Birth of a Nation will be out October 7th, but it’s already being dangled as Oscar bait. Maybe this year we can forget the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag.
I have to admit I cringe every time I see the title Birth of a Nation, since I am familiar with the original 1915 movie that shares the title. The 1915 movie is one of the most racist flicks ever placed on film. Set in the South after the Civil War, the KKK are the good guys and the black people are all pure savages. White actors wear black face. The history book isn’t just kicked to the curb, it’s shredded, feed to the dog and whatever the dog threw up is kicked to the curb. It persists because unfortunately it also pioneered so many film techniques still in use today. As much as we would love for this movie to be forgotten, it never will be. Ugh.
So when I saw that Birth of a Nation was HUGE at Sundance, I flinched, but clicked on the link anyway. OK, maybe we will never be rid of the racist 1915 movie, but it appears this new film by Nate Parker, co-starring Gabrielle Union and Aja Naomi King, will go a long ways towards trashing the memory of the previous travesty. This movie is 180 degrees from the previous film. This Birth of a Nation follows Nat Turner as he leads a slave revolt in 1831. Here the black men are the heroes and the white slave owners are the savages.
This film was a labor of love for Nate Parker, it took him 7 years to get the film made, but he is getting paid back for it many times over. The film was greeted at it’s premiere with a standing ovation that lasted throughout the entire closing credits. It’s not just getting positive reviews and lots of buzz, it just sold for a record 17.5 million to Fox Searchlight. Not bad for a film that was made for a mere $10 million. Take that #OscarsSoWhite!
The Hollywood Reporter talked with the cast about the film, Nat Turner, and what it was like to work for first time director Parker. Here is the video.