Birth of a Nation Just Broke Sundance

Filmmaker Nate Parker’s feature debut was sold in the biggest Sundance deal ever

Sundance is full of creative, innovative and controversial movies. But rarely does anything come close to bowling audiences over quite like Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation, which tells the story of Nat Turner, who spearheaded a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831. Deadline reports that the film left audiences “shaken, and some sobbing,” after closing to standing ovations.

In response, Parker nailed down a deal today with Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million for world rights. The deal is the largest to ever come out of Sundance, followed—somewhat distantly—by Little Miss Sunshine, which scooped up $10.5 million in 2006.

Parker worked on Birth of a Nation for seven years, giving up his acting career along the way. He’s performed in over a dozen films since 2005, but this one became his obsession.

In a panel following the screening, Parker addressed the success of the film and spoke in no uncertain terms about the current state of the film industry.

“There is a system that is based on race that says African American films don’t sell,” he said. “So this is a win for independent filmmakers, this is a blow against white supremacy and racism in this country and abroad…I’m swinging a hammer, I wanna break everything. Subvert, subvert, subvert.”