Birth of a Nation Just Broke Sundance

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