What better way to strike out against Hollywood's lack of diversity than with a film chronicling one of the most explosive moments in African-American history? That challenge was taken up by Nate Parker a few years ago when he began developing The Birth of a Nation, a film about the bloody, violent slave revolt led by Nat Turner in 1831. It debuted at Sundance earlier this year to tremendous fanfare (my review was a bit more even-tempered, I think) and secured the biggest deal in festival history, going to Fox Searchlight for an incredible $14M.
Was the money worth it? Certainly the distributor thinks so since it's being released right in the heart of awards season where it's guaranteed to capitalize on all of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that will undoubtedly begin anew. But how will audiences respond to a film that attempts to humanize a man responsible for the murders of dozens, some who were slave owners and some who weren't? Turner addressed some of those questions in my interview with him from Park City, but you can get a glimpse at his approach in the latest trailer. Parker wrote, directed, and starred as Turner in the film, joined by Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Dwight Henry, Gabrielle Union, Jackie Earle Haley, and more. Here's the official synopsis:
Set against the antebellum South, THE BIRTH OF A NATION follows Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), 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 Birth of a Nation hits theaters on October 7th.