The Birth of a Nation was the talk of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and now the nonprofit behind the annual Park City event is celebrating the pic’s director-star. The Sundance Institute said today that Nate Parker will receive its Vanguard Award.
Parker, who also wrote the screenplay, will be honored August 11 at Night Before Next, a summer celebration benefiting the Institute and its artists on the eve of Sundance Next Fest at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
“We are excited to honor Nate Parker as he prepares to release the extraordinary film TheBirth of a Nation, which we supported during development and premiered at our Festival,” said Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute.
The Birth of a Nation, which Fox Searchlight acquired for a festival-record $17.5M at Sundance, centers on Nat Turner (Parker), a literate, enslaved man and preacher whose financially strapped owner (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 — Turner orchestrates an uprising in the hope of leading his people to freedom. The film also stars Jackie Earle Haley, Gabrielle Union, Penelope Ann Miller, Aunjanue Ellis, Mark Boone Junior and Aja Naomi King.
UPDATE, 7:45 PM: It’s a double win for The Birth Of A Nation tonight at the Sundance Film Festival Awards. First the Nate Parker-directed, written and starring film won the U.S Dramatic Audience Award and now it has scored the prestigious U.S. Dramatic Jury Award.
“Sundance is like a great summer camp experience,” said a clearly humbled Parker onstage. “This has been like the greatest moment of my career,” he added. “It just means so much.” This is the fourth year in a row that the same film has won both the U.S. Audience and Jury awards. Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale, which was renamed Fruitvale Station upon wide release won both awards in 2013, Whiplash won in 2014 and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl won last year.
PREVIOUS, 7:10 PM: After an emotional and acclaimed debut screening on January 25 and a record breaking $17.5 million pick-up by Fox Searchlight the very next morning, The Birth of a Nation sealed its Sundance Film Festival tonight with yet another big win. The Nate Parker directed and starring passion project about Nat Turner’s 19th century slave uprising took the Audience Award for U.S Dramatic Saturday night in Park City.
Thank you Lord, Thank you Sundance,” said Parker taking the stage with the film’s producers Jason Michael Berman, Aaron Gilbert, Brenda Gilbert and EP Ryan Ahrens. “I’ve seen first hand that people are open to the idea of change and the fact that this is happening means everything to me, “ Parker added of the issues raised in the film and the reaction it’s received. “Thank you to everyone who voted for the film, he also said to big applause. “I share this with you.” The film is also in the running for the U.S. Dramatic Jury Award at Sundance this year.
Made for under $10 million by the Red Tails actor with the likes of San Antonio Spurs’ star Tony Parker coming in as an EP, the visceral Nation depicts the horror of the system of slavery and the 48-hour revolt Turner instigated in 1831 in Virginia. And Yes, in this time of the diversity and #OscarsSoWhite discussion that Hollywood is engaged in unfortunately again, if you feel you recognize the name, it’s because Parker re-appropriated the title of the infamous 1915 film by D.W. Griffith that helped reinvigorate the KKK in America.
With Parker as Turner and Armie Hammer, Gabrielle Union, Penelope Ann Miller, Aja Naomi King and Chike Okonkwo co-starring, the film saw multiple standing ovations and tears streaming down the faces of patrons at its packed Eccles Theatre premiere. Within minutes, potential buyers were working the phones in the lobby and an all night bidding war between Netflix, Sony Pictures, the Weinstein Company, Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios and others broke out.
In the end, it was Fox Searchlight that Parker, his producers and WME went with. “Ultimately with Searchlight I felt a connection and a humanity on just a human level, not to say that it wasn’t there with the others, but there was a relationship and a synergy with respect to what impact we wanted it have on the world – a global approach,” Parker told me on the morning of January 26 just hours after the deal was done.
A global approach for a pic that now has its first but likely not last award in hand.
article by Dominic Patten and Patrick Hipes via deadline.com
Fox Searchlight, the specialty films division of 21st Century Fox, is closing a $17.5 million deal to acquire worldwide rights to “The Birth of a Nation,” a drama about the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner, that had an electrifying premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
The Weinstein Company, Netflix, Paramount, and Sony were among the companies making offers on the picture. Bidding lasted through the night, with one company, believed to be Netflix, offering $20 million for the picture. The deal is the richest in Sundance history.
The film was written and directed by Nate Parker, who also stars as Turner and invested his own money in the production. Parker is best known for his work in “The Great Debaters” and “Beyond the Lights.” The response to the picture was seismic and the Oscar buzz erupted as soon as the lights went up following the picture’s debut at the Eccles Theatre.
In a rave review, Variety critic Justin Chang wrote, “‘The Birth of a Nation’ exists to provoke a serious debate about the necessity and limitations of empathy, the morality of retaliatory violence, and the ongoing black struggle for justice and equality in this country. It earns that debate and then some.”
The cast includes Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley and Mark Boone Junior.
article by Brent Lang and Ramin Setoodeh via Variety.com
Chiké Okonkwo (Banshee, BBC’s Paradox) has been cast in Nate Parker’s The Birth of A Nation. He joins an ensemble that includes Jackie Earle Haley, Armie Hammer, Colman Domingo, Penelope Ann Miller and Mark Boone Junior in the historical drama based on the true story of the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner.
Okonkwo plays a brutalized slave who becomes a freedom fighter and ally to Turner (Parker) during the rebellion. Prompted by religious visions, Turner and a band of about 70 slaves killed between 55 and 65 people in Virginia. The rebellion was stopped after two days, but Turner survived in hiding for more than two months.
Parker is producing and directing from his own script. The film is a Bron Studios, Phantom Four, Mandalay Pictures and Tiny Giant Productions picture, in association with Follow Through Productions, Infinity Entertainment, and Creative Wealth Media Finance. Producers are Bron’s Aaron L. Gilbert, Kevin Turen, Jason Michael Berman, and Preston Holmes. Filming is underway in Savannah, GA.