Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” follows Nat Turner (played by Parker himself), a slave during the 1800s who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia in 1831. As a boy, Turner was taught to read, so he could study the Bible and be a preacher to other slaves, but when Turner’s master takes him across the country on a preaching tour, he sees the scope and true horror of slavery. He decides to be a different kind of leader, and encourages his fellow men and women to rise up against the oppression that holds them down. Watch the brand-new trailer for “The Birth of a Nation” above.
Set to Nina Simone’s cover of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” the trailer shows Turner preaching the Bible to his white masters as well as his fellow slaves, but we soon see Turner witness the casual atrocities that surround him — squalid conditions, threats of violence, and a heartbreaking shot of a child playfully leading another child with a rope around his neck. Through intimate close-ups and telling camerawork, we see how Turner changes his mind about his place in the world after seeing the inherent moral injustice of submitting to a master. Soon, he’s preaching about “signing a new song” and enacting vengeance on those who seek to hurt them unjustly. It ends with a shot of Turner’s rebellion rising up and fighting against their cruel masters. It’s a powerful early look at what will surely be one of the most dynamic, talked-about films of the year.
“The Birth of a Nation” premiered in competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, where it received an enthusiastic standing ovation. Fox Searchlight Pictures bought the worldwide rights to the film for $17.5 million, the largest deal at the festival to date. “The Birth of a Nation” was a labor of love for Parker, who wrote the screenplay, helped put together the financing, and placed his acting career on hold for the film because he believed that it was necessary and important to put Turner’s story on screen.
The film will be released in theaters on October 7th.