Amid #OscarsSoWhite controversy, black filmmaker smashes Sundance record


Hollywood has a fully burbling controversy on its hands in #OscarsSoWhite, and the back-to-back failure of the Academy Awards to nominate any people of color for its acting awards.

However, in a sign that the film industry could be headed towards more inclusivity, an historical biopic made by, produced by, and starring people of color just set the record for biggest sale at the Sundance Film Festival ever.

According to Deadline, after an “all-night bidding war” Fox Searchlight bought the rights to The Birth Of A Nation, a drama about Nat Turner’s slave rebellion starring, produced, written, and directed by Nate Parker for $17.5 million. Fox beat out Netflix (who offered $20 million), Sony Pictures, and The Weinstein Company. The sticking point for Fox Searchlight’s win? A commitment to releasing the film during awards season, a precedent-making move in Hollywood.

Fox Searchlight won 3 awards at the 2014 Oscars for 12 Years a Slave; Deadline heard from anonymous sources that The Birth of a Nation was of similar quality and Vulture called it a film of “enormous power.”

Parker is known for being a thoughtful actor, as evidenced by this excerpt from a past interview.

Elsewhere on Twitter, it was clear that Parker had accomplished something big.

But it was also a similar story that we’ve seen before.

In the film, Parker plays Nat Turner, who led a failed slave rebellion in 1831 Virginia. The rebellion was met with violent retribution, though Turner was credited with bursting the bubble of thought that said slaves were content in their station. The rebellion was used as justification for new, harsher laws against both slaves and free blacks alike throughout the South.

The title, “The Birth of a Nation,” is no coincidence: D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film, though highly influential and a commercial success, was also super racist, helping to inspire the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan. Parker’s “Birth of a Nation,” meanwhile, serves a signal that maybe next year’s Academy Award nominees will be more diverse, and not so white.

David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: [email protected]

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