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 is an American period drama film based on the story of Nat Turner, the enslaved man who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. The film is co-written, co-produced and directed by Nate Parker (in his directorial debut) and stars Parker as Turner, with Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Penelope Ann Miller and Gabrielle Union in supporting roles. Parker also petitioned financiers to invest in the film, ultimately getting a $10 million production budget, and started filming in May 2015 in Georgia.
The film premiered in competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2016. Fox Searchlight Pictures bought worldwide rights to the film in a $17.5 million deal, the largest deal at the film festival to date. At the end of the festival, the film won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition and was highly praised for its directing, acting, soundtrack and cinematography. The film was theatrically released in the United States on October 7, 2016 by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Because The Birth of a Nation attracted increased scrutiny due to possible Oscar nominations, there was significant press coverage of a 1999 rape that Parker and his roommate were alleged to have committed. While both Parker and his roommate were ultimately acquitted, the controversy surrounding the alleged rape and Parker’s initial responses to the controversy cast a shadow over the film.
The Birth of a Nation
Directed by: Nate Parker
Starring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Boone Junior, Aunjanue Ellis, Aja Naomi King, Gabrielle Union
Screenplay by: Nate Parker
Production Design by: Geoffrey Kirkland
Cinematography by: Elliot Davis
Film Editing by: Steven Rosenblum
Costume Design by: Francine Jamison-Tanchuck
Set Decoration by: James Edward Ferrell Jr.
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content, and some brief nudity.
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release Date: October 7, 2016