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Nate Parker, the creative force behind the Sundance Film Festival smash “The Birth of a Nation,” will be honored at CinemaCon as the breakthrough director of the year.

The Las Vegas gathering of theater owners is usually focused on tentpole films, not indie pictures, but expectations are high for the drama, which centers on Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion. “The Birth of a Nation” sparked a bidding war at Sundance with Fox Searchlight swooping in to land global rights to the film for $17.5 million. That’s a record price for a film at the festival.

Parker, best known for roles in “Beyond the Lights” and “The Great Debaters,” took time off from a bustling acting career to bring Turner’s story to the screen. He made his directorial debut with the film. He also wrote the script, produced the picture and stars as the charismatic slave leader.

The film will debut on Oct. 7 at the height of Oscar season and is expected to be a major awards contender. CinemaCon, hosted by the National Association of Theatre Owners, will be held April 11-14 at Caesars Palace.

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