The Birth of a Nation just smashed records at Sundance. We talked to director Nate Parker. – by Gregory Ellwood on January 31, 2016

The movie could be a turning point for diversity in Hollywood

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at Feb 1, 2016 12.31

Nate Parker’s epic drama The Birth of a Nation hit the 2016 Sundance Film Festival like a lightning bolt. It was easily the most anticipated premiere at the fest, and a large portion of the audience in the 1,200-seat Eccles Theater gave Parker a standing ovation before the movie had even screened. That’s pretty rare.

The first-time filmmaker — who is best known for his acting roles in films such as The Great Debaters and Non-Stop — earned the euphoric response for the increasingly legendary story of how he got the picture made in the first place. Parker spent seven years attempting to raise the necessary funds to bring the story of Nat Turner and his 1831 Virginia slave rebellion to the big screen. At one point he even told his agents he refused to work as an actor until the film was financed.

Passionately directed with a gleam of Hollywood sheen, The Birth of a Nation is brutal and unflinching in its depiction of how slaves were treated during this period in history. Parker delivers an emotional performance as Turner, and he’s assisted by a committed cast that features Aja Naomi KingAunjanue EllisColman DomingoPenelope Ann MillerArmie Hammer, and Jackie Earle Haley. Most importantly, the film brings to life an important moment in an era that very few Americans are even aware of.

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