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Get your first look at ‘The Birth of a Nation’ -- and read how Nate Parker is handling expectations

After “The Birth of a Nation” premiered to multiple standing ovations at the Sundance Film Festival in January, a handful of distributors were clamoring to purchase Nate Parker’s directorial debut. Fox Searchlight ultimately won the bidding war, acquiring the movie for a reported $17.5 million -- one of the biggest sales ever to come out of the Utah fest.

Given the hype, it makes sense that Searchlight is already promoting the slave rebellion tale, despite the fact that the movie isn’t hitting theaters until October. On Friday, the studio released the first trailer for the movie -- a different version than the one that played for movie theater owners at CinemaCon a day prior. Parker, who spent eight years working on the movie he would ultimately produce, write, direct and star in, told exhibitors gathered in Las Vegas on Thursday about how he became so passionate about the story of Nat Turner. He was in college when he learned about Turner, a preacher who led the biggest rebellion of slaves in America, in 1831 Virginia.

After the Fox presentation, Parker hung around Sin City for a few more hours to accept the convention’s breakthrough director of the year prize. Despite the attention the high-profile sale of his film gained at Sundance, Parker told The Times he wasn’t feeling too anxious about living up to any industry expectations.

“I try to keep my mind focused on the fact that people will see it and, hopefully, if we’ve done our job, there will be an impact,” said Parker, 36. “I try to stay away from expectation, because you never know. The reality is, people are people and their opinions are their opinions and you hope that you touch them in a way that at least you can take them on a journey that will activate them and make them feel like they can do something to affect the injustice that they see in the systems around them.”

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Because of his deep involvement in the movie, Parker is already overseeing marketing materials -- like the newly released trailer -- and talking about the film’s upcoming global rollout.

“I think that’s the advantage I have -- and some would say the obstacle, he said. “There’s a lot to be involved in. There’s so many decisions that are made every single day. Some days you’re talking about international decisions, some days you’re talking about domestic decisions, some days you’re talking about events like this. But like I said before, the joy is that in every surprise we have surrounding this film and its release, it lets us know more people will be exposed to it so the messages in the film will get out.”

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

Follow @AmyKinLA on Twitter for the latest Hollywood news

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