Sundance: ‘Birth of a Nation’ Lands at Fox Searchlight in Record $17.5 Million Deal

The Birth of a Nation Sundance
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

UPDATED: Fox Searchlight is closing a $17.5 million deal to acquire worldwide rights to “The Birth of a Nation,” a drama about the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner, that had an electrifying premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

The Weinstein Company, Netflix, Paramount, and Sony were among the companies making offers on the picture, Variety has learned. Bidding lasted through the night, with one company, believed to be Netflix, offering $20 million for the picture. The deal is the richest in Sundance history.

The film was written and directed by Nate Parker, who also stars as Turner and invested his own money in the production. Parker is best known for his work in “The Great Debaters” and “Beyond the Lights.” The response to the picture was seismic and the Oscar buzz erupted as soon as the lights went up following the picture’s debut at the Eccles Theatre.

In a rave review, Variety critic Justin Chang wrote, “‘The Birth of a Nation’ exists to provoke a serious debate about the necessity and limitations of empathy, the morality of retaliatory violence, and the ongoing black struggle for justice and equality in this country. It earns that debate and then some.”

The cast includes Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley and Mark Boone Junior. WME handled sales of the film.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 52

Leave a Reply

52 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. “Parker is best known for his work in “The Great Debaters” and “Beyond the Lights.” No… Parker is best known for being a rapist and a homophobe…

  2. P.H.Smith says:

    The Birth of a Nation —
    Our emotions are the crack on the lens which prevent clear sight & perspective. I see Nat Turner as a poor pitiable product of the oppressive new world slave system, not a role model for anyone, but an indictment of a cruel and inhumane america. His action spurred the abolitionist movement into being, and like the Boston massacre sparked the U.S.War for Independence, Nat’s massacre sparked and smoldered into the Civil War. I do not see him as a positive character in any way except as an example of how not to win one’s freedom and self-respect. I read as much as I could about the incident feeling more and more that this was a man driven to insanity or sociopathy,but a great leader no. He was literate. Self guided by visions and voices, not uncommon in that century,but today it might be construed as paranoid schizophrenia .I imagine him more a Charles Manson of the 1830’s than a Martin Luther King or Fredrick Douglas..I’d rather see a film based on real black historical characters who succeeded not those that failed. A historically accurate film on the Haitian Revolution ,where slaves revolted,defeated racist bondage, and hanged Napoleon’s brother-in-law would be great.I have the feeling a film about Nat Turner may leave me frustrated and hypertensive.I think a good leader would realize live hostages are always more valuable than slaughtered corpses. I also suspect he had no logistical knowledge.His actions were like a blind rattlesnake trapped in a cage making futile suicidal strikes to no avail, A tragic character.I’d vote Haitian Revolution over Nat Turner any day.

  3. Michael Hill says:

    Nat Turner was a savage coward as were all of his filthy followers. They didn’t fight grown men but instead chose to behead babies, toddlers, women, and old folk. The gutless cowards were captured by one old farmer with a single shot rifle and then properly hanged after being tried for the savages they were.

  4. goodjob says:

    On or about August 21, 1999, while Jane Doe was unconscious, two
    Penn State students, Nate Parker and Jean Celestin, raped Jane Doe at Parker’s offcampus
    apartment.

    Parker, Celestin, and their friends constantly hurled sexual epithets at
    Jane Doe while shadowing her as she moved throughout campus and frequently
    made harassing phone calls to Jane Doe’s dorm room. The harassment and
    intimidation made Jane Doe fear for her general safety on campus.

    this is the nate parker and jean celestin hollywood wants to support

    http://www.womenslawproject.org/Briefs/Doe_PSU_amended_complaint.pdf

  5. Bob says:

    why did you only list the white actors staring in this film?

    • They did NOT only list white actors. Do your homework. These repeated comments crying racism are without merit. You are not reading the article. Do you want Variety to identify all by race? Unbelievable. It’s the biggest sale in the history of Sundance. Why don’t people focus on the positive and know what they are talking about before posting?
      Love,
      Gay female, white, disabled producer

  6. fredw says:

    5 years ago, I would’ve look forward to seeing this film.
    Sadly the last few years has been a nonstop barrage of negative energy against non-minorities.
    Blacks paid free tuition to attend prestige colleges scream that the name of their dorm doesn’t suit them.
    Director of an Oscar nominated film raises hell because she wasn’t nominated as best director.
    Never mind that someone paid her millions to direct a feature film.
    This is wrong. That is wrong.
    New all black TV shows have appeared, Huge percentages of black talent are hired by news stations.
    But it’s all BAD BAD BAD BAD.
    I don’t feel like turning on the tube anymore.
    No way will I watch Chris Rock trashing the industry paying him top dollar and a high profile gig.
    “poor us, poor us, poor us”
    Barf Ugh Puke.

  7. Why does a movie with African American or black people for that matter portraying slaves or about slavery considered Oscar worthy? Is this the norm now? If this is what Hollywood accepts as being an example of diversity then we are doomed… I suppose if this continues, then why not classify the use of slave dialect and nominate it for Best Foreign Language Film as well…? smh…-_-

  8. Good news from Utah. One more reason to give #RobertRedford the Princess of Asturias Award. You can stay updated @RedFordAsturias
    Here the link to the initiative:
    https://www.change.org/p/fundaci%C3%B3n-princesa-de-asturias-embajada-de-estados-unidos-en-espa%C3%B1a-robert-redford-princess-of-asturias-award-for-the-arts-2016-premio-princesa-de-asturias

  9. Black Spartacus says:

    You don’t have to go back very far in History to the Rwanda Genocide. The Hutu and the Tutsi. But I guess it’s easier to blame the White Race, for all the ills of the world! When people in Africa can’t even get along with one another! Yet they have the same SKIN PIGMENT! Why didn’t Nate Parker do a movie about Albino Africans being made Slaves by Darker Skinned Africans? Lets go back 100 years or more a relive events of a past that’s been gone in the USA for a long time. But forget about BROTHERS KILLING BROTHERS! Nate should go back to Akeemalon where they’ll treat him worse than those “White Americans”.

    • Curbcooler says:

      Hey moron, there was already a movie about the Rwanda genocide and it was called “Rwanda” with Oscsr nominated “Don Cheadle” you unformed fool!

    • jedi77 says:

      Everything you said is true, but it still is not an excuse to ignore the very real fact that the White man did som pretty nasty stuff from around 1600 till around, well now actually.

      I applaud you for your knowledge of injustices done to the peoples of the World, but you sound like an idiot when you use them to ignore or belittle other injustices.

  10. Cobra says:

    Congratulatons! Your work is very inspiring. Keep up the good work.

  11. mike says:

    who SPECIFICALLY got the 7.5 million $ profit? who did fox searchlight pay the $ to? so now fox owns the film and can do what they want with it? does it matter, to those who are already rich? violent movies are electrifying but when it is in in 3 dimensions (as it was originally) what would be the reaction?

    • 1support says:

      Have you ever attended an auction? The bid made on this motion picture and percentages go to the Auctioneer’s of Sundance and the rest or majority of the money goes to said owner of the motion picture. They in turn paid off every person that financed the creation of the project.

      • Ralph says:

        Violence? I just viewed The Revenant last night. Violent, violent, violent and relevant. I can’t wait to see Nate Parker’s film.

      • Why are people posting about business aspects of the deal that are unknown? The writer, director and star of the film is the sole financier. Auctioneers of Sundance? No idea what that means. It’s a deal that is solely between the filmmaker and Fox Searchlight. And representatives and business affairs for FS handle the deal making. Why is this thread film business 101? And why do people care so much about Variety proclaiming that it will be an Oscar contender for 2016? They are allowed to editorialize.

  12. Bob says:

    That’s your 2017 Best Picture winner right there…whether it deserves it or not.

    • 1support says:

      That’s not correct, the director/star/writer is not the sole financier of this wonderful project. Nevertheless, a bidding war took place, and the spoils to the victor, Fox Searchlight. You see, Mr. Parker acknowledged a financial campaign back in 2013-14 for this vision on bringing The Nat Turner Rebellion to the screen because he grew up less than 40 miles away from the actual location of the 1831 insurrection in VA. So, this thread hasn’t become business 101, your opinion is inaccurate. That’s correct an auction between Movie Moguls on who will own the rights to this film. . .

      • What is inaccurate? Are you talking to me? I was not addressing you. My post was in response to a very confused person. Unless you have seen the contract, you have no idea what the specific stipulations are as related to what you are referring to as a fundraising campaign. What kind of campaign? I sold a film recently at a festival and no payments are due to those who donated money. So, unless you are on the inside of this deal then your opinion is not fact based. I’m leaving this thread. I’m always thrilled to see a healthy sale in the independent film world.

    • Victoria says:

      So I guess “12 Years a Slave” wasn’t deserving? Why assume that now blacks will just win because of race and not on merit? Any talk to create a more diverse voting group and people are so quick to say that minorities are crybabies. It’s a ridiculous notion. The academy is made up of old (average age 63) white (94% white) men (76% men)…are they an accurate or fair representation for a voting body? Blacks, Asians, Latinos, etc should have a fair chance at being nominated. Now there is not a fair chance.

  13. 1support says:

    This will be an epic motion picture. Insurrections on slavery, on land, to my recollection have never been brought to the silver screen before. Fox Searchlight will make a hefty profit, indeed. This motion picture will not be considered until next year’s award ceremonies. With hyper diversity issues worldwide in the Industry, next year this young man’s vision put to the screen will hopefully receive accolades only reserved to others in the past. . . Congratulations Mr. Nate Parker, wishing you many, many years of well deserved recognition within an industry known for exclusivity.

    • P.H.Smith says:

      A Brazilian film called “Quilombo” starring Zeze Motta and Antonio Pompeo1984 Great film based on true slave insurrections also a must see –http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091816/

    • P.H.Smith says:

      “Burn” with Marlon Brando in the 70’s, but was heavily edited and censored.Played in only a few theaters.Was considered too inciting by american marketers so soon after urban riots.

      • P.H.Smith says:

        “Burn” starring Marlon Brando and Jose Dolores 1969 ,was greatly edited and censored in the U.S. Given limited distribution because it was considered too incendiary by marketers during the riots in the late 1960’s.

  14. Robbie says:

    Operation Bootstrap is beginning early this year.

    • P.H.Smith says:

      Our emotions are the crack on the lens which prevent clear sight & perspective. I see Nat Turner as a poor pitiable product of the oppressive new world slave system, not a role model for anyone, but an indictment of a cruel and inhumane america. His action spurred the abolitionist movement into being, and like the Boston massacre sparked the U.S.War for Independence, Nat’s massacre sparked and smoldered into the Civil War. I do not see him as a positive character in any way except as an example of how not to win one’s freedom and self-respect. I read as much as I could about the incident feeling more and more that this was a man driven to insanity or sociopathy,but a great leader no. He was illiterate and self guided by visions and voices, not uncommon in that century,but today it might be construed as paranoid schizophrenia .I imagine him more a Charles Manson of the 1830’s than a Martin Luther King or Fredrick Douglas..I’d rather see a film based on real black historical characters who succeeded not those that failed. A historically accurate film on the Haitian Revolution ,where slaves revolted,defeated racist bondage, and hanged Napoleon’s brother-in-law would be great.I have the feeling a film about Nat Turner may leave me frustrated and hypertensive.I think a good leader would realize live hostages are always more valuable than slaughtered corpses. I also suspect he had no logistical knowledge.His actions were like a blind rattlesnake trapped in a cage making futile suicidal strikes to no avail, A tragic character.I’d vote Haitian Revolution over Nat Turner any day.

  15. Sexracist says:

    How much is Variety’s cut?

  16. Dunstan says:

    Nate Parker deserves everything good that comes his way; he busted his butt getting this film made. Congrats.

  17. Why not a biopic about Maribeau B. Lamar or George Washington Carver? Why this guy? We won’t go over all the killing of women and children again (you can look it up on your own), but there seems to be an art to baiting the hook for the awards shows. There’s no sense in picking a great man, since that’s so boring. Let’s pick a controversial one and get a “discussion” going (that’s basically black people who refuse to look up a single fact arguing with the rest of the country on Twitter). Let the racial division of the populace create a fervor whereby they’ve covered your marketing efforts and saved you tons of money.

    • jedi77 says:

      Controversial men are often more interesting than great ones. Lincoln is an example. Great man, yes, but boring.

      Great men stpries are also very often simple. Controversial men stories often more complex.

    • Caune says:

      Randall. African Americans know their own history well. This movie is for all those students who were not or are not being taught the truth. You know, all those who think slavery was just a job where you got paid in food and housing.

    • Suha says:

      Cool, why don’t you make it!

      • Marc Vance says:

        Wait……. What makes you think Nat Turner was not a great man? Just because YOU see it, and him, as “controversial” (which it’s not…) doesn’t mean others do. It’s people like yourself who don’t want to have the difficult discussions and persons such as yourselves refusal to listen, that are the problem with the racial divisons within this country. Get a clue

        Up next: The story of Henry Berry Lowrie. I say call it “Red Man Rising”……..

      • mimi says:

        Nat Turner was a great man.

      • Zaire76 says:

        This is an election year, must make certain the Black electorate continues to look back and remain angry. Emotional people are easily manipulated.

  18. Jean says:

    Variety,

    WTF!? You mention the white actors in the film–Hammer, Miller, and Boone–but don’t mention any of the many African-Americans!

    Are you people that ignorant and tone deaf? That’s rhetorical.

    • Dunstan says:

      Jean, what are you talking about? Nate Parker is AA; his name is prominently featured in the article, as is his picture.

    • TomNewYorker says:

      Cause of the Success of 12 Years a Slave, I could see Fox Searchlight taking it.

      • Do you all read Variety for “fun”, just to bitch about a film you have not seen? These comments are hilarious. I’m sure they will go with a distribution deal that guarantees a proper release that makes the most for the film. If Searchlight won’t go beyond a limited platform release, they will be out of the running. And to the other comment — Nate had the guts to finance this film. Give him a break. This is a great story that he wanted to tell in a cost prohibitive situation. You have no idea what you are talking about. The ignorance and negativity is astounding. I say, put up or clam it up. Risk your own money to tell a story that speaks to you. Again, he was working within budget constraints and made a notable film. He should be applauded, not chastised.

    • Do you realize that Nate Parker wrote, directed and stars in the film. He’s black. He’s the lead.

    • They did. Have you seen the film? These comments are obviously by people who are not in the business. It’s the biggest sale so far. It covers an important part of black history and it IS newsworthy. Has seen for awards? What awards? Millions of dollars? These comments make zero sense.

      Please clarify.

    • Sexracist says:

      Dear Idiot,

      Do you not appreciate how much Variety is hyping a movie that NOBODY has seen for awards and millions of dollars? This isn’t journalism, it’s blatant publicity.

      Try seeing the big picture for once.

      • 1support says:

        The general public hasn’t seen the motion picture because it’s being viewed and bid upon at Sundance Film Festival. Now what does that mean? In the event you don’t know, Sundance has been in existence for 30 years, and sometimes motion pictures are Bid for by distributors like, Fox Searchlight and others. . This happens to be the highest bid ever offered during the SFF; therefore this motion picture won’t receive a release date until further notice. What Variety has publicized is an historic Bid of, $17.5 million placed during the annual festival at Sundance. It’s never happened before until now.

      • gkn says:

        Um… Variety is reporting on Sundance, dear idiot, which is still in session, so what awards? You seem to be confusing it with Oscar nominations for LAST YEAR’s films.

  19. fredw says:

    Comes with guaranteed Oscars (or it will be Death of a Nation)

  20. Jamie says:

    Avoid Weinstein.

  21. So excellent to see this film selling for what it deserves. I’m sure the offers will increase.

More Film News from Variety

Loading