Sundance 2016: Birth of a Nation acquired by Fox Searchlight
Nate Parker’s drama The Birth of a Nation, which tells the true story of slave-turned-rebel leader Nat Turner, officially has a distributor: EW has confirmed that Fox Searchlight is closing a deal to acquire the film for $17.5 million, the most ever paid for a Sundance film.
According to reports, companies like Netflix, Sony, and the Weinstein Company all made offers on Birth of a Nation in an all-night bidding war, but it was Fox that emerged victorious. The $17.5 million deal is a new Sundance record. (The previous record holder was widely considered to be Little Miss Sunshine, which Fox Searchlight also purchased in 2006 for about $10 million.)
Sharing a title with D.W. Griffith’s notorious 1915 silent film, which portrays the Ku Klux Klan in a positive light, Parker’s Birth of a Nation instead follows Turner, who led a violent rebellion in Virginia in 1831. In addition to writing and directing, Parker stars as Turner, and the entire project took seven years. Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Gabrielle Union, and Mark Boone Jr. also star.
Since debuting Monday, Birth of a Nation has earned rave reviews, and EW’s own Chris Nashawaty called it the festival’s “biggest spark yet.” Many have drawn comparisons to Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, which was also distributed by Fox Searchlight. 12 Years a Slave went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars and earn more than $187 million worldwide.
Deadline was the first to announce the deal.