‘The Birth of a Nation’ Sells for a Sundance Record $17.5 Million
To the list of Sundance 2016 deals so far we can now add another, and not just any deal; this is the biggest sale in the long history of Robert Redford’s film festival. That would be Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, which Variety reports Fox Searchlight is “closing” a deal for at an incredible price: $17.5 million.
For that fee, Searchlight will get one of the most critically acclaimed movies at this year’s Sundance. The film, co-written, directed, and starring Parker, follows the life story of Nat Turner, who led one of the most famous slave rebellions in American history. Parker felt so strongly about Turner’s life that he basically put his acting career on hold for several years while he raised the budget for the film. Here’s the plot synopsis from Sundance’s website:
When a little slave boy, Nathaniel “Nat” Turner, was taken to meet the Elders in the deep woods of 1800s Southampton County, Virginia, it was determined he would be a prophet. It became evident that the unusually intelligent boy would become able to read, so he was encouraged to study the Holy Bible and be a preacher to his fellow slaves. But when Nat’s master decides to profit from his preaching skills by putting him on an inter-county preaching tour, Nat begins to see the full contours of slavery and is moved to become a different kind of leader.
Variety says that while Fox Searchlight’s offer is still the biggest for any film in Sundance history, it wasn’t the biggest offer The Birth of a Nation received after its world premiere yesterday. Another company (“believed to be Netflix,” per Variety) offered $20 million for the picture.
Instead, Parker and his team went with Fox Searchlight, who have a better track record turning historical dramas into box-office hits and Oscar contenders. (Searchlight distributed the last two Best Picture winners, 12 Years a Slave and Birdman.) Expect to see this one around the end of 2016, where it will surely be a major competitor during awards season. In the meantime, here’s a Sundance Film Festival interview with Nate Parker about the film.