×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘The Birth of a Nation’ Premieres at Sundance With Big Standing Ovation and Oscar Buzz

Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation,” a brutal, emotionally charged drama about Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion in 1831, received the most enthusiastic standing ovation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival so far.

The movie, which premiered on Monday afternoon, had the crowd at the Eccles Theater in Park City, Utah, cheering for Parker, who not only stars as Turner, but also directed, produced and wrote the picture.

“I made this film for one reason: creating change agents,” Parker said after the premiere in a Q&A where he brought more than 40 members of the cast and crew onstage. He noted that there are “systems in place that are corrupt and corrupted people, and the legacy of that still lives with us.”

Parker said he spent seven years working to get the film to the big screen. “It was extremely difficult for many reasons,” he said. “The first was our subject matter: anytime we are dealing with our history, specifically slavery, I found that desperately sanitized. There’s a resistance, I’ll say, to dealing with this material.” He said that financiers told him they weren’t sure there was an audience for the story, and that “people overseas don’t want to see people of color” in a movie.

“The Birth of a Nation’s” premiere couldn’t be more timely for Hollywood. The Oscars have come under fire in recent weeks for nominating only white actors for the second consecutive year. With the right distributor — and the big players from Fox Searchlight to Amazon were all in attendance — “The Birth of a Nation” could be the second major Oscars contender to premiere out of Sundance (Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester By the Sea,” which debuted on Saturday, sold to Amazon for $10 million and a guarantee of an awards season push).

Although next year’s Oscars are still 13 months away, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Parker isn’t a strong contender for best actor. At the Q&A, Parker recalled how he told his agent that he wouldn’t take any more jobs as an actor until he got “The Birth of a Nation” made. “I put my own money in,” he said. “I sacrificed everything.” He also remembered some words of wisdom that George Lucas gave him on the set of 2012’s “Red Tails”: “When everyone is telling you something can’t be done,” Parker was told, “that’s how you know you’re on the right track.”

More Film

  • 76th ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS --

    Film News Roundup: Glenn Close Selected for Oscar Wilde Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Glenn Close gets an honor, AFI names its Directing Workshop for Women participants and Teri Polo gets cast in a Christmas drama. CLOSE HONOR Glenn Close will be honored on Feb. 21 by the US-Ireland Alliance at the 14th Annual Oscar Wilde Awards, held at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot in [...]

  • Jason Reitman Ghostbusters

    Jason Reitman to Direct Secret 'Ghostbusters' Movie

    Sony Pictures is getting the wheels in motion for the next installment in the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it knows who it’s going to call to direct: Jason Reitman. Sources tell Variety that Reitman, whose father, Ivan, directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies, will direct the latest pic in the famous franchise. Reitman has also co-written a [...]

  • L.A. Teachers' Strike: Hollywood Studios, Unions

    Hollywood Studios, Unions Support Parents and Educators as L.A. Teachers' Strike Rages

    Hollywood unions and entertainment companies have stepped up to support the 31,000 Los Angeles teachers in the second day of a massive strike that’s affected nearly half a million students. More than 50 SAG-AFTRA members picketed at a Tuesday afternoon rally in the driving rain next to the Hollywood & Highland Center with secretary-treasurer Jane [...]

  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON in Glass. M.

    ‘Glass’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Universal Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Glass.” Ads placed for the superhero thriller had an estimated media value of $9.89 million through Sunday for 1,183 national [...]

  • Danny Glover

    Danny Glover Joins 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' Sequel

    Danny Glover has joined the cast of Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” sequel. His role is being kept under wraps, as is the storyline. Glover will star opposite Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, all of whom are set to return. Awkwafina is in final negotiations for a significant part in [...]

  • DJ Khaled Bad Boys

    DJ Khaled Joins 'Bad Boys' Sequel (EXCLUSIVE)

    DJ Khaled has rounded out the cast of Sony’s upcoming “Bad Boys” sequel “Bad Boys for Life,” joining returning stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Khaled will also join series newcomers Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Jacob Scipio, and Paola Nuñez. Joe Pantoliano is on board to return as Captain Howard. Production is currently [...]

  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON in Glass. M.

    M. Night Shyamalan's 'Glass' to Break January's Slow Box Office Streak

    No plot twist here: M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller “Glass” will dominate the domestic box office. As this weekend’s lone wide release, “Glass” looks to be the de facto choice for moviegoers during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Now the only question is: how big of an opening can “Glass” pull off? Mediocre reviews don’t [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content